Italian food options are abundant in our little city. So when I first heard the news last year that another Italian restaurant was opening in the former location of Iris (previously one of our favorite spots, but sadly another downtown Canton culinary casualty), I’ll admit I was skeptical. But then I started noticing a certain buzz about Lucca, specifically that they are focusing on sustainability by using local meats and ingredients, a definite first for Canton. After hearing of a slew of positive experiences, reading a fantastic review by Tom Noe of Exploring Food My Way, and later, learning that Lucca had been featured on a special “farm-to-table” Canton Food Tour, it was obvious I had been missing out. Then, a few months ago, while celebrating a friend’s birthday downtown , I found myself in Lucca’s bar, sipping on the most delicious cocktail: the Dirty Mary martini, when who should strike up a conversation with me but Josh Schory, Lucca’s owner and executive chef. While chatting, I learned (among other things) that he was a bit….miffed, shall we say, (jokingly of course) that I hadn’t been in for meal yet. I agreed I was overdue for a visit. So, a couple weeks ago, as promised, I finally discovered what all the hype was about.
In the blink of an eye, the building that once held Brown Bag Burgers was magically transformed into Baja Pizzafish. Mind you, this restaurant is on my route to work – it’s right next to Danny Boys and Quaker Steak – so I pass it 2-4 times per day…but I hardly noticed the transition. Literally, the switch happened that fast. Opened by the same owners as Old Carolina BBQ, the apparent concept was to bring some West Coast style and healthy cuisine to the midwest. Continue reading
On our second day of honeymooning in San Juan, we decided to walk from Old San Juan to the beach, which turned out to be quite a journey. Midway there, we stopped to rest along the road under some palm trees. We saw a couple approaching us, wearing bathing suits, so as they got closer, we inquired how much farther to the beach. They told us we were close and asked where we were from. Turns out the guy was from Wisconsin and his wife was from Youngstown, Ohio! They had retired five years ago, and now live six months of the year in Puerto Rico; the other six months are spent touring the states in an RV. They went on to tell us their favorite restaurants, one of them having “the best mofongo in San Juan.” At this point, we still didn’t know what mofongo was, but they explained it, and that evening we were heading to the recommended spot: Punto De Vista.
In an attempt to transport myself back in time a few weeks to my fabulous honeymoon, I will be writing a short series of blog posts about our favorite eateries in San Juan, Puerto Rico. All of them were in Old San Juan, since we opted to rent an apartment in the city for the week instead of going the resort route. Our apartment, Caleta 64, was just across the street from El Convento, and within walking distance of the two Spanish forts (dating as far back as the 1500’s), as well as shopping galore, and a plethora of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. Our first Puerto Rican obsession was coffee. Enter Caficultura, recommended to us by our host at Caleta 64 and Old San Juan aficionado, Betsy.
Checking out a new restaurant on your birthday could be considered a risky endeavor. Some might call it foolish, especially when that restaurant is not only new, but practically “off the grid” when it comes to an online presence of any kind, (although they have since established a website). Such was the case with the new talk-of-the-town downtown Canton restaurant, Basil Asian Bistro. Despite maintaining quite a mystique in the first few weeks, every food lover in Canton was facebooking and tweeting about it. It was practically a race to see who could get there and talk about it first.
I wanted to take my mom somewhere special for Mothers Day, because, well, she’s the best, and of course loves to eat like I do, especially Mexican food; in fact, she actually cooked professionally at a Mexican restaurant in California, so she knows her stuff. It seemed only logical to kill two birds with one stone: treat my mom to a delicious Mexican feast AND get some new blog material in the meantime. Enter Momocho.
We recently had the privilege to dine at The Greenhouse Tavern, Jonathon Sawyer’s green “gastropub” on East 4th Street in downtown Cleveland, focusing on sustainability and the farm-to-plate movement. It was downtown Cleveland restaurant week, so I decided it was about time to see what all the hype was about. Let’s get to the point, I’ve been talking about GHT since we had dinner there two months ago. And frankly the only reason I haven’t blogged sooner is that I was afraid I wouldn’t do it justice. Chef Sawyer, if you’re reading this, please forgive me for butchering descriptions, it’s going to happen. All I can say is it was a lot to take in; plus, I think I slipped into a food-induced “high” of sorts about midway through the meal.
The day before Easter, we finally made our first trip to the West Side Market in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood. I decided to take the whole crew with me for a mini road trip. We arrived shortly after lunch time (on a Saturday, they are closed Sundays), and it was packed with people. Inside, as expected, was a delight to the senses. We started in the produce section, which had it’s own entire building of vendors.
Sometimes it takes a while to discover a perfectly great restaurant that’s right under your nose. Such was the case with Grinders Above and Beyond, a local chain of six family restaurants in Stark County and surrounding areas. While the term “family restaurant” often conjures unpleasant imagery of tired menu offerings, old people, and a general lack of culinary creativity or “scene”, Grinders goes above and beyond all that (ha) and manages to stay pretty cool. This post is centered around the North Canton location, which I find to have a comfortable and visually-interesting dining room, a better-than-average patio, excellent servers, and a bustling crowd pretty much every time I visit. But it wasn’t until last summer at a company luncheon, catered by Grinder’s, when I finally became a fan of their cuisine. It was the Key West salad that sucked me in.
In an exciting part two of NEO Food Tours’ Battle for Battery Park, we continued to the next competitor, only a block away from Battery Park Wine Bar. Reddstone is a “watering hole and grub hub” with a great outdoor patio that’s a blast in the summer. It’s completely hidden from the street, which I love. Of course in February, we weren’t going to the patio. The evening’s events were hosted upstairs in a dimly lit private room with its own bar and stage. With probably around forty people on the tour, plus the hosts for the evening, Ramon Rivas and Todd Gauman, and another half dozen or so guest judges, the room was pretty packed. The lack of lighting was great for atmosphere, but made it tough to really appreciate the beauty of the food. So I had to use the flash for the pictures, which I hate doing…but you can get the idea.
The space was much more intimate than Battery Park Wine Bar, but that wasn’t such a bad thing. There was a small raised stage to the side, which allowed the comedians to be right next to the audience. There’s a possibility they were a bit too close – story to follow.