Baker’s Cafe 33 | Canton, Ohio

For the first time in my food-blogging career, we tried out a restaurant that we didn’t know existed, based exclusively on the 97% positive recommendations from Urbanspoon.  And as we happily discovered, if you’re looking for a fantastic steak, then you need to look no further than Baker’s Cafe 33.  Off the beaten path (just south of downtown Canton), Baker’s doesn’t look like too much from the outside, and on the inside is more of the same, but the amazing food and friendly staff explain why it’s been a destination for over 75 years.

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Pistacia Vera | Columbus, Ohio

There are those food experiences where the stars align and everything just seems perfect.  It’s some spectacular combination of flavors, ambiance, and emotion that’s almost unexplainable.  Well that is exactly what happened at Pistacia Vera in German Village.  This must be what heaven looks like.

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Lembo’s | Akron, Ohio

In my old stomping grounds, a part of East Akron called Ellet, you’re definitely limited on worthwhile restaurants.  But Ellet happens to be a great meeting place between Canton and Akron, wherein lies Lembo’s.  Lembo’s is primarily an Italian restaurant that’s been around for years.  Apart from the Italian dishes, another draw is their salad bar, which is much more than salad.  I mean, who even has a salad bar anymore?  Well if this is your bag, Lembo’s is worth checking out, because after all, who can make a better salad for you than you?!

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Caffe Gelato | North Canton, Ohio

It’s not often that on a random Tuesday evening I discover a hidden gem like this one. Cafe Gelato sits on Main Street in North Canton and has a little downtown storefront kind of look, despite the fact that it’s located in what looks like a large old house.  The only reason I mention this is because I’ve literally driven by the place dozens, maybe hundreds of times, thinking ‘oh yeah, I need to stop there sometime’ – but it just never materialized.  Well, never judge a book by its cover, because if you did you would miss out on this adorable spot.   Continue reading

Sugar Fixe Patisserie | Oak Park, Illinois

In the darling “downtown” of Oak Park lies an apparently new bakery called Sugar Fixe.  An inviting sign and storefront enticed me to come in for a quick dessert before I headed back to the airport.  And boy am I glad I stopped.  Inside was a case half full of eye candy: croissants, cupcakes and cookies mostly.  A cupcake seemed like it would really hit the spot, so I checked out the options, which at the time were only vanilla creme, chocolate, and coconut.  Of course I went for the coconut.  I got it packaged and headed back to Prairie Bread to have a sandwich and kill some time.

At first I was thinking okay, three bucks for a cupcake, this place might be a little pretentious and possibly a little full of themselves.  I also questioned the frosting – it looked like a bit much for the size of the cupcake.  Well if I had known what my tastebuds were about to experience, I would have bought the whole tray of cupcakes.  This was the most delicious, moist, not-too-sweet wonderful lightly coconut flavored cake I’ve ever tasted, and the frosting was light, fluffy, again not too sweet, and such a wondeful coconut undertone, I thought I had died and gone too cupcake heaven.  No joke.

I am a lover of cupcakes and made sure to visit Magnolia Bakery in our last visit to NYC. It was nothing short of amazing – we tried the carrot cupcake and devils food cupcake and they were both divine, as was enjoying them in the middle of Grand Central Station.  This coconut cupcake from Sugar Fixe could easily slide into the mix at Magnolia and fit right in.  What a treat!

Sugar Fixé Patisserie on Urbanspoon

n9ne Steakhouse | Chicago, Illinois

Two new restaurants in Chicago today!  And shame on me for being such a bad blogger – I got pictures at one but can’t for the life of me remember the name of it, and the other one, n9ne, awesome food and decor, and not a single picture.  Frankly I didn’t know my company quite well enough to bust out the iPhone and start snapping, tourist-style.  Hmm, best to steal some photos from the website?  I’ll have to see what I can muster.

First up, lunch.  What a beautiful day to have lunch on the river, soaking up the sunshine, so that’s exactly what we did.  It was a great break from a crazy Monday at Neocon to depart momentarily from the hustle and bustle and sit in the sun with some great people.  But sadly, friends – and you’re not going to hear me say this often, but I think I ordered wrong!  So unlike me.  My sandwich sounded so appetizing on the menu, but it was not much more than turkey sandwich which some raddicio and a little poorly flavored condiment, on a toasted multi-grain bread that was far too hearty for the ingredients.  Major pet peeve of mine is when sandwiches are ruined with the wrong bread.  Half the bread would have been too much, and it was too crunchy (and large) to get your mouth around and enjoy.  The salad that accompanied was just okay for me also – the dressing was a tad too tart.  So in this case, we sacrificed a little on the food for some ambiance.  But even with the snafu in ordering, it was a gorgeous day, great atmosphere (i.e. outdoor patio), wonderful company, and a free lunch (thank you, Julie)…who am I to question this.  And I do give them high marks for presentation, plus, my friends appeared to be pleased with their lunches – luckily I got pics of all three.  If I had to do it again I would have gone for the grilled cheese with bacon and tomato jam – yes please.  Turkey? I’m dumb.

On to dinner.  n9ne Steakhouse is apparently owned by a restaurant group, one of which is in Vegas, and the interiors of this Chicago steakhouse were somewhat reminiscent of Vegas styling in a lot of ways.  Lots of sparkle and flash, oversized lighting, and a few snooty wait staff all supported the Vegas vibe.  Really our server wasn’t all bad, just playing the part I suppose.  As for the food, we had a true feast, starting with a fresh seafood platter which included lobster, jumbo shrimp, clams, muscles, and oysters.  For the main event, I opted for the 8 oz. filet with bernaise sauce which was cooked to perfection, tender and juicy, melted in your mouth.  Perfectly seasoned too.  On the side we had an assortment of dishes to share, including lobster mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, and the table favorite, duck fat fries – yes I said it.  Absolutely sinful, with a wonderful sauce to accompany.  Like I said, a feast!  I love Chicago!

Of course there was dessert as well – a wonderful creme brulee (although have you ever had a bad one?) and a warm chocolate filled cake topped with a chocolate sorbet.  Chocolate on chocolate is not usually my first choice but this one was pretty divine.  The only negative comment I can find about the whole n9ne experience – and this is more funny than negative – one of the women at our table ordered ice cream, which came in a ramekin and was quite literally one spoon full!  She had to order two in order to taste it – looked more like a palate cleanser than an actual dessert.  But all in all, I would go again, that is if it’s being expensed.  On my own I would have stopped at the appetizer!  Thanks to my wonderful friends (and their expense accounts) for spoiling my palate today.

(Photo compliments of the n9ne Group)