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Issue Date: October 2011

Best of Cleveland 2011: Food


You may have had beef tartare before. But Club Isabella executive chef and owner Fabio Mota wants his guests to get really raw with his tartare sampler ($12). "Not everyone does salmon and tuna," he says of pairing the duo with beef, a deep-fried egg (a staple of the Le Cordon Bleu trained chef), toast and locally grown microgreens from Sirna's Market & Deli in Aurora. "I am partial to beef, but the trio works well together." Each tartare is prepared and seasoned exactly the same to allow the individual flavors to come through. As for how to eat his French-inspired masterpiece, Mota suggests spreading one of the tartares on a piece of toast then add a little of the runny yolk from the egg and top it off with the greens. "It's contemporary classic done up in a modern way." 2175 Cornell Road, Cleveland, 216-229-1111,

Olive Oil

One glance at The Olive Scene's wall of extra-virgin olive oils, with names such as hojiblanca and picholine, and you realize you know nothing about olive oil. But employees are quick to educate, telling you how the shop's oils are never more than a year old, pressed in either the Northern or Southern hemispheres depending on the time of year, or how fresh oil retains health benefits and varied flavor notes. When left to sample, you'll taste that for yourself: An Australian koroneiki has hints of ripe banana, and a bold Chilean frantoio is earthier and peppery. Farther down the wall, infusions such as chipotle have intense added flavor. Making good food easier and ensuring buyers have many ways to use the products is just as important as the quality, so the staff shares ideas and recipes, many gathered from the owners' Mediterranean families. "We cannot get away from having busy schedules, but we can get away from fast food," says co-owner Tracy Camera Lockhart. "That's what we're trying to provide." 19132 Old Detroit Road, Rocky River, 440-895-9999,

Luxury Sunday Buffet

Indulging in the chef-inspired Sunday brunch ($47) at the Ritz-Carlton's Muse is like running a marathon. It's all about pacing yourself and not eating too fast. But with more than 50 seasonal and local offerings such as wild boar, crab legs and house-cured smoked salmon, it's hard not to sprint to the head of the line. The extravagant spread, which changes weekly, is laid out in what executive chef Richard Sören Arnoldi calls a food box: one side savory, one side breakfast items and two action stations (think make-your-own eggs Benedict and roast beef carving areas). Don't worry about the amount of plates you'll need to sample all the sushi, salad, shrimp cocktail, dim sum, pastries, desserts, omelets, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, soup, hash browns and fresh fruit — the staff isn't counting, says Arnoldi. "That's an invasion of someone's personal space." 1515 W. Third St., Cleveland, 216-623-1300,


Popcorn for a Cause

Hot Dog Stand Hamburger

Polish or not, Clevelanders enjoy their pierogies as much as a thick burger, and Hot Dog Diner finally satisfies our cravings by putting the two together in one tasty dish. Melted American cheese oozes between a juicy, homemade burger and soft bun. It's all topped by a tender potato-and-cheese-stuffed pierogi, grilled onions and a dollop of sour cream for just $4.49. Originally located on Brookpark Road, Hot Dog Diner moved to a vacant Taco Bell on Pearl Road nearly two years ago. And though it might resemble a drive-thru, the only aspect of fast food here is quick service. Owners Natalie and David Teare get their fresh ground beef from a local independent butcher, and their pierogies are made by parishioners at a nearby church. "Parma is known for their pierogies, so we came up with that to tie into our location," Natalie says. "Our toppings are just as diverse as Cleveland is." 5494 Pearl Road, Parma, 440-886-3647,

Beer Soup


$2 Lunch

Vegan Wedding Cakes

Mobile Cupcakes

After spending last winter in Tower Deli's kitchen baking 2,000 practice cupcakes and in a garage fixing up a 30-year-old van, art teacher and amateur chef Dave Southerington was ready to spread the recent cupcake craze to the people with Sweet! The Mobile Cupcakery. He started hitting West Side businesses and parks on Memorial Day in Babe, the Big Blue Box, a 16-foot-by-6-foot blue van with a giant pink and orange cupcake on it. His flavors are fun takes on popular desserts such as key lime pie, white wedding cake and chocolate malt. But because the cupcakes have to move (buttercream melts at 94 degrees Farhenheit), Southerington usually keeps it simple. Among his most creative are the chocolate tiramisu he created for a catered event and French toast, topped with maple frosting and a slice of bacon. "My creativity gets to come through in the frosting, where there's a little more leeway to play around." 440-465-7333,

Frozen Yogurt

LemonBerry Frozen Yogurt invites you to embrace all your mad-scientist tendencies. This locally owned pay-by-weight yogurt shop is like a laboratory for those with a sweet tooth and an imagination. First, there are Lemonberry's frozen yogurt flavors that change every Sunday, such as the popular red velvet and cake batter (the flavor tart, which is tangy and tastes like natural yogurt, is always on the menu). Then, it's on to the toppings, cylinders filled with Fruity Pebbles, Golden Grahams, M&Ms, Reese's Pieces and dozens of other options. Then, you'll probably want to douse your creation in hot fudge or peanut butter or caramel sauce before heading to the buffet of fresh blackberries, strawberries and other fruits. Of course, sugar makes one last encore with crushed candies and goodies such as gummy worms and brownie bites. "It makes adults feel like kids," says Kari Bechke-Algaier, who owns the store with her parents, Joy and John Bechke. "And the kids love choosing their toppings." 12927 Pearl Road, Strongsville, 440-238-0793,

Short Ribs

Columbus Import

We've been envious of our state capital for having Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at its disposal. Several of the handmade artisan ice cream shops are just a lick, hop and a jump for most Columbusites. Clevelanders on the other had to either nab a pint at Heinen's or get a scoop at The Greenhouse Tavern. The ice cream gods (or founder Jeni Britton Bauer) must have finally heard our prayers when a Chagrin Falls location opened in June. People quickly lined up, even in the pouring rain, to devour popular flavors such as salty caramel and wildberry and lavender. We're especially excited for the fall collection's beet cake with black walnuts and Parmesan and zucchini bread, which evoke a late-harvest vibe. "Have a taste," says Britton Bauer. "It becomes a different experience than eating chocolate chip ice cream." 67 Main St., Chagrin Falls, 440-247-2064,

99-Cent Steak

Late-night Pizza

Goat Milk Fudge


Cake on a Stick

Forget the forks. You can eat this super-moist cake treat on the go. Created off the growing trend of cake balls (baked cake mixed with frosting then dipped in chocolate) OH, Cake Pops! puts its version on a stick for easy transportation and no-mess eating. Cheryl Ann Meredith and Matt Adkins started the online-only store in March with more than 25 tasty flavors such as Buckeye Blitz (chocolate fudge cake with a milk chocolate shell dipped in peanut butter) and Milk & Cookies (yellow cake with a white chocolate shell topped with cookie crumbles). "I'm an artist first before being a baker," says Meredith of the creative look of each pop. "They are so versatile. I have endless decorating options." 216-502-7601,

Power Breakfast

Go ahead and cancel lunch. Breakfast at Pura Vida, chef Brandt Evans' new spot near Public Square, offers protein-packed triumphs that'll make your morning bagel look positively puny. Sure, the place has tasty light and classic dishes for business travelers (egg white omelet, french toast). But don't miss Pura Vida's heartier fare, which Evans says he created for people like himself who put in long hours at their job. "This is going to be their one meal before they go to work for the rest of the day," he says. There isn't a diner skillet around that tops Pura Vida's Kobe Tri Tip Cast-iron Hash ($12.95), and we're still thinking about the overflowing crock of Country Ham & Kale ($8.75). "It's our rendition of a bread pudding when you dive into it," Evans says. "Then you have some really good country ham, and we just layer it up. That dish definitely screams for a snowstorm." 170 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, 216-987-0100,


Wednesday, October 26, 2011 8:55:14 AM by Anonymous
The BEST restaurant in Cleveland is Johnny's On Fulton.

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