Welcome to Bite Buff and I am Katrina. Join me as I explore the best (and maybe sometimes the worst) that Cleveland and it's independent restaurants have to offer. Let's take a "bite" out of our city together, as I make Cleveland my home.
A new bakery quietly opened in our neighborhood, Pie Punks, near the corner of Memphis and Pearl.
Like so quietly that you can't even find them in a Google search, Facebook searches get you nowhere, and the website listed on their products' packaging is not live.
But, their doors were open and the cases full!
They had a variety of whole pies in a couple of different sizes, quiches in the same sizes, cookies, and pastry bars.
We snagged three small Quiches and each were really fabulous heated up. I also picked us out a small Peach and Cherry Pie, which we warmed up and added a scoop of vanilla ice cream to. I'm not a big dessert person, but I kept digging in for "one more bite" before I shared with Mr. H.
I'm not sure what this mysterious business' story is, but their stuff is good, so I'll keep coming back.
The Van Aken District is just exploding on the east side. Local business favorites like Cleveland Clothing Co., Mitchell's Ice Cream, and Room Service have opened locations, and shoppers can also enjoy additional boutiques like Whiskey Grade and Luster. The restaurants have also flocked, and I personally look forward to trying Michael's Genuine Food & Drink (now open) and the soon-to-open Jonathon Sawyer spot.
In the heart of it all is the Van Aken Market Hall.
In addition to the sit-down restaurants, the area now offers a 21,000-square foot food hall. It's a great place to gather, with a little something for everyone. We recently met our friends and their two young children there for dinner on a Friday. There is plenty of room for the kids to run around, a couple of food stands to choose from, and Craft Collective where the adults can grab an alcoholic beverage.
We sample a bit of everything, including the Mac and Cheese with Focaccia Bread Crumbs ($8) from Scorpacciata Pasta Co. (one of my little friends' personally favorites)...
...and their Carbonara ($14) with black pepper fettuccine, Ohio pancetta, yolks, and arugula.
We've always enjoyed the poutine and cased meats from Banter on the west side, so we just had to dig in to a couple of the Sliders, which you order individually.
They did not disappoint. That's a jalapeño popper on top of that beef slider pictured above! An order of poutine graced the table too.
A couple of takeaways from our experience...
I am falling in love with a Food Hall concept. It's great for groups or families, because everyone gets to choose what they want or you can mix-and-match a couple of small things from more than one place to make a meal.
When the garage doors on the Van Aken Market Hall can be open in the warmer months, the flow and vibe will be really cool.
Ohio City Galley has the logistics and atmosphere figured out much better. First, the positioning of the restaurant stands and designated seating areas are more clear and cohesive. Second, their liquor license includes the entire space so you're not limited to where you can enjoy an adult beverage (Craft Collective space only here).
The food was all solid and no real complaints, but the food quality and flavor are better at Ohio City Galley.
Timing. The food flies out at Ohio City Galley, but the waits were around 45 minutes at Van Aken Market Hall (after you waited in line for quite a bit) on what seemed like a steady but not slammed night.
Mitchell's Ice Cream is right across the street, and made for a perfect end-of-the-meal treat!
What are your thoughts on food halls? If you've been to both, which do you prefer?
It's Silver Spoon Awards week! One of the absolute best ways to sample dishes from all over the city in one place, and all for a good cause.
The 25th Anniversary Cleveland Magazine Silver Spoon AwardsParty, to benefit the Arthritis Foundation, is a strolling food and wine tasting event and one of Cleveland’s finest social and culinary evenings. Guests will sample delicious signature dishes from nearly 50 of Northeast Ohio’s best restaurants and several international wineries. All participating restaurants are 2019 Cleveland Magazine Silver Spoon Award winners and finalists.
It will take place this Wednesday, May 15th at the Hilton Cleveland Downtown from 6-9PM. The event also includes an exclusive VIP Lounge, a highly-anticipated silent auction and exciting raffles. Complimentary valet is offered for all guests and tickets include a year subscription to Cleveland Magazine.
But, let's be honest, it's all about the food! This is one event where you have to pace yourself and be strategic about stations to stop at, because you simply can't taste them all.
Event proceeds fund critical arthritis research and support local services for the 1.3 million Northeastern Ohioans with arthritis and related diseases. Arthritis is the nation’s #1 cause of disability. Join the organization in becoming a Champion of Yes for the more than 50 million Americans, including 300,000 children, with arthritis.
Tickets are still available. It's not too late to join!
General Admission: $125 Event Day VIP: $175 Event Day
But if you can't be there, you can support the event by making a donation online or bidding on their silent auction packages. Online bidding means you can take home one of the fabulous prizes, right from your couch.
Disclosure: I was provided with two VIP tickets in exchange for my assistance in promoting the event. All opinions stated are 100% my own. All images above provided by CLE Weekly / @orvillemceachronphotography.
This bar was 'built by musicians, for musicians" and the ambience, events, and even some of the names of menu items all reflect that passion and purpose.
They have a full bar, and one bartender in particular that made several of us different "surprise" craft cocktails that did not disappoint.
There are several great small plate Snacks to start with, and we dove right in to the Corn Dogs ($10) that are cornmeal battered bites with a tomato aioli and stadium mustard. It was a generous portion, and a perfect ratio of batter to dog.
Mr. H was feeling like a burger so he ordered The Jam Burger ($14) with Great Lakes yellow cheddar, double-cut bacon, and your choice of a brioche or pretzel bun. Served with a side of fries. I went for the Grilled Chicken Tacos ($13) with queso fresco, valentina aioli, sweet peppers, onions, and cilantro. They could have used a bit more seasoning or something to really impress, but they were a solid choice and apparently a menu favorite.
The team at Stella's were very generous and brought out several Snacks for the group to try, and then three Pizzas as well. I didn't snag a sample of the pizza, but the Chicken Wings and Bavarian Pretzels were both good versions and easy to share. The mountain of Stella's Nachos also looked pretty darn good with a tower of toppings, including pulled pork, but I didn't sample them.
Then the real fun of the night kicked in. A round of Jello shot syringes appeared...
...and Live Band Karaoke started. It was my first time experiencing karaoke with a live band, and man what a difference! Our night's fearless leader, Lauren, slayed it up on the stage.
Opened in 2018, I had not yet discovered Stella's Music Club (across the street from Progressive Field). But this live music venue has a lot to offer with a full bar, menu with food coming from Brickstone next door, events, and more. Maybe not my usual "scene" but a great stop on a future Indians game night. Hopefully, on Live Band Karaoke night again. Such fun!
The Culinary Vegetable Institute in Milan, Ohio is home to fine dining events featuring visiting chefs from all across the country, using seasonal ingredients grown right on their James Beard Foundation award-winning Chef's Garden grounds.
In addition to the events held monthly, a select few can "upgrade" their experience by purchasing a Chef for a Day package, which gives you a full day of access to this beautiful kitchen equipped with every tool and toy you can think of...
...and the opportunity to prep, cook, and serve right alongside the CVI and visiting chefs. This time, we worked with the team from JUST. Go read more about their plant-based products.
Sounded right up Mr. H's alley, so that was his birthday gift this year!
They even let me have a knife!
He's still all smiles, even several hours into trimming and cleaning mushrooms.
After working for a couple of hours, you settle in for a fabulous private lunch and chat with CVI Executive Chef Liaison Jamie Simpson.
Seriously, it was almost too pretty to eat. And our mushrooms made their first appearance! That green item on the left is chicken. The skills and techniques of CVI Chef Tristan Acevedo blew me away during this lunch. He whipped this all up in what felt like minutes.
The carrot sorbet to end the meal was a highlight for me.
We were put back to work for a little while longer in the kitchen, but then popped out to the Chef's Garden grounds for a brief tour and to clip some of the edible flowers to use as garnishes at the evening's event.
I could have wandered through their greenhouses for hours.
But it was time to pop back to freshen up for dinner in the rustic and picturesque dining room. Your package includes two tickets to the dinner, but you can choose between sitting for the meal or staying in the kitchen to help finish cooking and plating.
The evening kicked off with the delicate signature cocktail of the evening. I had to get a second, it went down so nicely! Wine, beer, or wine pairings are also available for an additional charge.
Then the courses from JUST started to roll out. This was their version of Crudité, with this amazing vertical Kalamata olive crisp that we got to watch them make.
The Waffle course included crispy chicken, slaw, and a JUST waffle.
Our mushrooms made their second appearance next in the Pasta course with JUST egg noodles (no eggs were harmed in the making of this pasta), lemon beurre monté, and mushrooms. This dish was so good that Mr. H took a crack at recreating it the following week, and it turned out pretty darn good.
The team from JUST couldn't have been any cooler to hang out with that day, and the chefs at CVI were wonderful about working with us even though we're at very different skill levels in the kitchen (a.k.a. I'm useless and Mr. H is a whiz). The servers later that day also embraced us crashing their training meeting, and continued to check on us all evening. I was a little sad to see the day end. But I did confirm that I'm not cut out for a 12-hour day in the kitchen!
It was such a unique experience. One that we'll never forget. But I don't need to see another mushroom for a little while. Mr. H had a blast, and happily cleaned mushrooms a few days later.
On Thursday of last week, I had the opportunity to attend a Roses and Rosé influencer event at Heinen's.
Some might say that Rosé Season is upon us with the warmer weather peeking its head around here lately. In my opinion? It's always Rosé Season! But I'm always looking for new ones that I enjoy, and we had the chance to sample seven at the Heinen's tasting. Along with fantastic cheese pairings, of which I purchased two to take home.
My mom was not upset at the timing of her arrival in Cleveland for a long weekend visit, as she got to be my plus one for the event!
But first we had a tutorial on floral arranging, and I picked up several new tips. I can often be found picking up some Heinen's blooms when grocery shopping, as they have a wide selection of arrangements or you can mix-and-match with the 3 for $15 to create your own bouquet.
So let's talk about the wine...
...as I did have several of the seven that I liked. Enough that I immediately purchased three and flagged a fourth for the future. Here are my recommendations:
Rodney Strong Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir (strawberry, white peach, jasmine)
Philippe Viallet Rosé de Savoie (strawberries, red currants, spicy notes)
What about you, are you a rosé drinker? If so, what's your go-to bottle?
Disclosure: I was invited with a guest to attend an event to sample product at Heinen's. All food and beverage was complimentary. Each attendee received a gift bag and gift card. All opinions stated are 100% my own.
This past Sunday brought us another delightful Market at the Food Bank to benefit the Harvest for Hunger campaign for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.
More than 1,000 attendees gathered in the warehouse of the Food Bank to stroll and sample food from over 50 local restaurants and beverage purveyors. Mr. H and I were immediately drawn to one of our favorite chef tables, John Selick of University Hospitals/Sodexo. He's always churning out some of the best bites at any food event he's involved with!
You get to wander through the impressive racks of food that will be distributed out to our community's pantries, hot meals programs, kids program sites, and fresh produce distributions, all while stopping at food and drink stations to sample from spots all across town.
Lucky for us, one of our last bites of the night also ended at a long-time favorite of ours, Nomad Culinary. This dynamic couple slings out amazing food for any type of meeting or special occasion you're hosting, and is always one of the first catering recommendations I give out! Their vegetarian Balsamic Braised Eggplant with Mint and Arrancini was so good.
Another favorite dish for me was the Mac n' Cheese from MELT Bar + Grilled. Why have I never strayed from the grilled cheese there? That may need to change.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Food Bank, and the need in our community is greater than ever. For every $1 donated, they can provide 4 meals in a local hunger center. Market at the Food Bank 2019 raised $347,000. That's 1.38 million meals provided. This is one annual event that we don't like to miss, but the Food Bank needs assistance year-round. Make a gift, host a food drive, or volunteer your time. The recipients of their good work in Northeast Ohio need it the most.
Disclosure: I was provided with two General Admission tickets in exchange for event promotion. I am a former employee of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. All opinions stated are 100% my own.
You know those places that you drive by and something just catches your eye (the name, signage, location), and you think to yourself...I wonder what that spot is like inside.
Well, one of those places for me was the Cleveland Corned Beef Co. on Pearl Road. With a name like that, and Cleveland with a reputation for corned beef...I was curious. But years went by and we never made an effort to stop in. Flash forward to a dinner party conversation with a neighbor that raved about their breakfast a few weeks ago, and you better believe we scooted there the following weekend for a greasy-diner breakfast.
Located in a strip mall along the corner of Pearl Road and Brookpark Road, it's not much to look at from the outside. But the name alone and large images of corned beef stacked high will catch your eye!
Inside, it's just a sliver of a place. Only a handful of counter stools and one or two tables in the back. But there were plenty of to-go orders headed out the door during our meal.
If you settle in for your meal, every seat has a front-row view of the griddle action. The pancakes were about the size of my head!
I ordered the Corned Beef, Egg and Cheese Sandwich ($3.99) with my choice of bread. I went with Texas Toast. While the hash browns side was skimpy and under-cooked, the sandwich was hearty and generously-sized.
Mr. H ordered the Everything Omelette ($7.99) which literally had EVERYTHING on it. This thing was HUUUUGE and probably weighed about 2 pounds! Mr. H is a big eater, and even he could barely finish half.
He got a side of Rye Toast with it, and truly all of the bread products coming out of the kitchen looked really fresh and good.
While I think the food quality and certainly atmosphere is better at a few other diners closer to home, this was a fun adventure and one for any corned beef fan.
Almost 12 years in Cleveland, and I'm still on the hunt for "my" pizza in Northeast Ohio. While I haven't found a favorite that really blows my socks off (no, I haven't tried Angelo's in Lakewood yet), Augie's Pizza in Independence has been near the top of my list.
Located in the Rockside Corners Shopping Center, it certainly doesn't look like much from the outside...
...or the inside, as it's only a handful of tables, the small kitchen, and a counter displaying their pizza-by-the-slice.
Pizza by the slice is available from 11AM - 3PM Monday-Friday.
One of the reasons I enjoy their pizza is that the toppings are typically found baked under a "shelf" of cheese. It's so thick and really locks in those toppings and the sauce. The crust is somewhere between thin and thick, just the way I like it. It's doughy, but yet has a crispy edge. Never soggy, it holds up well to the toppings and generous amount of cheese.
I've also ordered catering from Augie's for work meetings, and their salads and pastas have always been a hit. There are plenty of good options to build an order from.
The new wine bar, Opal on Pearl, is quickly becoming my favorite neighborhood spot in Old Brooklyn. It opened in the former Drink. Bar + Grill location on Pearl Road, near Memphis. There is plenty of free parking in the lot behind the building, as it is shared with CVS next door. You'll want to enter the building from that back lot.
The space has been lightened up, with brighter paint on the walls and new artwork.
The wine-focused bar does not have a glass or bottle on the list that will disappoint. Owner, Tony Mellon, has spent decades in some of Cleveland's best restaurants (Lola, Flying Fig, Johnny's on Fulton), and he's curated a list of wines that I trust and blindly pick from.
You can still get a cocktail (I do miss the fantastic craft cocktails of Drink's time) and a handful of craft beers, but in addition to the wine-focus, the spot is featuring small plates. Share, build a meal, and try a few different things.
A couple of visits we've had issues with the freshness or toasting of the bread served with dishes, but other than that there have been quite a few dishes we've really enjoyed. You'll find a daily flatbread, calamari, meatballs, warm olives, Korean spiced chicken wings, mussels, stuffed dates, a couple of salads, cheese (from Old Brooklyn Cheese Co.) and charcuterie boards, and a couple of sides and other small plates. There's also dessert! Some of which comes from Old Brooklyn neighbor, Lilly Chocolates and Confections.
Where I think the food really shines is in the daily specials. There are always a handful and you can usually preview some tempting-looking photos on their Instagram account.
The other night, we enjoyed the Spicy Garlic Shrimp ($11).
Bruschetta ($8) with herbed ricotta and warm eggplant caponata.
Spicy White Bean Tapenade ($10) with manzanilla olives and fennel served with grilled Tuscan bread.
Roasted Brussel Sprouts ($3.50) with pancetta aioli.
Pan Roasted Cod ($15) with a caper and artichoke lemon butter, crispy fingerling potatoes, and spinach.
You can find the Brussel Sprouts and the White Bean Tapenade on the regular menu right now. Try a combination of small plates that sounds good to you, but I do recommend gravitating towards the daily specials as they always seem to impress us just a bit more.
Happy Hour from 5-7PM Tuesday-Thursday or 4-7PM on Fridays offers a handful of small plates for $3.50-$6 and drink specials for $5 or $6.
It's become our pop-in spot for a bite to eat on a weeknight that we don't feel like cooking or after I had a late work meeting, or a pre/post-dinner glass of wine on the weekends. It filled a gap in our neighborhood, and we couldn't be happier.