Restaurant Review: Lucky’s Cafe, Tremont (Cleveland, Ohio)

Something’s missing…a picture, I know.  Sidebar: I have a really retarded “smart” phone these days that decided to delete all my contacts one day.  I found a back door way to get them back by downloading them and importing them into my Google account and then syncing Google to my phone (all because my loving carrier told me when I complained that my phone was a piece of junk that I really should just buy a new one because mine it “old”).  Pshhhhhh.  So that little import and sync trick worked for a couple days until my phone told me my data was full…it wasn’t.  It got to the point that I couldn’t open text messages so I decided to factory reset my phone.  I took out my memory card with all of my pictures, reset my phone and tada – phone was “fixed!”  Problem solved…until a couple days later when my phone started throwing errors when I wanted to answer phone calls and then decided to reformat my memory card FOR ME.  How nice.  NOT.  It deleted every single picture…even the cheesy ones that are supposed to be preloaded on the dumb thing.  And with it went my pictures from Lucky’s Cafe.  Sorry about all of our luck – you can’t see my crumby cell phone picture of my lunch.  I’m going to buy a new phone now…

All that said, I’ve been having a daily debate in my head…iPhone or Droid?  I won’t tell you what I have now (although, I’m sure you can guess), but I can’t decide what’s best for me.  Yes, I’m a software analyst during the day, but I’m really the worst IT person EVER.  I break technology like its my business and really couldn’t care less about computers outside of work.  Bottom line, you won’t see me developing apps in my spare time unless hell freezes over despite Branden’s pleading (there’s good money in app development, in case you didn’t know, especially as a side gig).

Okay, so the real reason I’m here today is to tell you about this AWESOME cafe that Branden took me too last week during a break from doctor’s appointments most likely because I was starting to get kind of whiney.  It happens to me when a certain amount of blood is extracted – whining and moping…I get crabby, too.  Its not pretty.  But this cafe is!!!

Branden travels a LOT for work (being a pilot and all) and has come to love FlavorTown USA as a resource for finding excellent local restaurants.  In case you’re wondering, YES, this is a complete listing of all the restaurants Guy Fieri has visited on his show, “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.”  And that’s precisely how Branden found Lucky’s.  I’m a “lucky” girl!

This place is awesome!  They pride themselves on local food – so local that they have their own, rather large, garden behind the patio of the cafe that they harvest from.  While we were there, I watched an employee go out and pick Swiss Chard for their daily special.  YUM!  Their whole concept is that if they can’t get it local, they try their best to get the food from at most, 100 miles away.  It works, trust me it works.  They grow their own produce, bake their own bread, make their own dressings, sauces, CORNED BEEF!  Branden had the Reuben with their homemade bread, thousand island, and corned beef – honestly, they make it.  Check out this video clip!!

Is you mouth watering yet?!?  If not, take a trip with me to my lunch – baked mac and cheese with brie, cheddar, mozzarella, and parm – all topped with brioche bread crumbs.  Our waiter asked me if I wanted to add bacon.  BACON?  I looked him straight in the eye and asked “is that really an option?!?!”  It was, and I grabbed it by the horns!  Oh my goodness, this mac and cheese was probably the best I ever had – the combination of cheeses was incredible and they melded with the cream in this thick, creamy, gooey bowl of awesome…not to mention the salty, crunchy, thick bacon pieces!  The cheese sauce was thick, but not like glue – it was perfect.  The penne was perfectly cooked to al dente, too – which I find lots of restaurants struggle to do – I do NOT like mushy pasta!  Only downside, they made it to order and it literally came out boiling…and I burnt my tongue multiple times because I was so excited to eat it and didn’t let it cool enough.  If that’s the worst thing about Lucky’s, then I will be a repeat customer for sure!  Oh, oh, and one more thing, the side that came with my mac and cheese was homemade apple sauce (incredible, by the way!).  The waiter suggested I eat the mac and cheese mixed with the apple sauce…I’m really, really weird about my foods touching.  This was tough, but he suggested it, so I tried it.  I dipped my fork in the applesauce and then in the pasta…OH.  MY.  GOODNESS.  So weird, BUT soooooo good!  Think about it, we eat apples with cheese all the time, why is this any different from and apple with cheese and crackers?  Its not.  Embrace it, please!

So, a teeny, tiny part of me is glad that I had to spend a day at the doctor’s office because that meant quality time with the hubby trying out a really great restaurant.  Its worth it if you find yourself in Cleveland to check out Lucky’s and really the rest of Tremont (its an up and coming hipster-ish area with cute cafes and shops nestled into a neighborhood).


Categories: American, Restaurants | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

SUCCESS: Coconut Chicken Curry!

Okay, so if you have ever visited or lived in Athens, Ohio, you hopefully have had the pleasure of eating at Salaam, a Middle Eastern restaurant that is absolutely incredible!  When I first moved to Athens, Salaam was an eclectic hookah bar in the basement of a building in an alley that happened to serve the best food.  A year or two later, the state of Ohio passed a smoking ban (which I actually really appreciate because I have asthma AND a bad smoke allergy) and Salaam had to choose between being a hookah bar and a restaurant.  THANKFULLY, they chose the later because this was seriously one of my favorite restaurants there (I still go every time I return to Athens for a visit).

I kid you not, this place has incredible food.  Branden and I always start with a mezze platter of fresh hummus, warm baba ganoush, roasted red peppers and kalamata olives.  OH, and don’t forget piping hot pita bread!!  If that’s not enough, then we always order the coconut chicken curry which is unlike any other curry I’ve ever had…which leads me to the point of this post (and its not to praise Salaam although I do encourage you to visit if you ever find yourself in Athens).  The point is, I crave this delicious dish – like big time!  I have been trying for years to recreate it and have come really close before.  This time is different because this time, I think I’ve nailed it!

I made this for Branden’s birthday this year along with homemade Naan and baba ganoush (both of which you’ll see recipes for really soon).  This was one of those meals that made me really sad when it was over because there was so much love in this meal and I never wanted it to end!  So for all you Salaam lovers out there, eat your hearts out!

Salaam serves there’s with a beautiful trio of cilantro chutney, cucumber raita, and toasted coconut on the side…you can bet that I did the same!

Salaam’s Coconut Chicken Curry (not the restaurant’s exact recipe, but one that I changed to mimic their’s)

  • 2 tsp. coconut oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 3 to 4 jalapenos, seed removed and finely chopped
  • 1 dried ancho chile pepper, rehydrated in boiling water, chopped
  • 1 tsp. ground tumeric
  • 1 TBS ground coriander
  • ½ TBS cayenne pepper
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, separated from skin and bones
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/2 c. chicken stock
  • 2-3 TBS coconut cream (Reserve some of the creamy part of the coconut milk if you can’t find coconut cream)
  • 3 dried kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • salt to taste

Heat oil in a large dutch oven and add the onions. Sautee until soft. Add the garlic, chilies, tumeric, coriander, and cayenne. Reduce heat, sautee for another 2 minutes or so.  (NOTE: At this point, I threw my coconut milk in the blender and then added the above ingredients.  I gave it a few pulses and then continued on with the recipe – this isn’t necessary, but I wanted my sauce a little more uniformed).

Add chicken, coconut milk, stock, and lime leaves to a dutch oven and and cook on low for about 45 minutes until the sauce thickens.

Stir in them lemon juice and coconut cream. Salt to taste. Remove leaves.  Serve immediately over jasmine rice.

This was adapted from This Primal Life

Categories: Entrees, Middle Eastern, Recipes, Restaurants | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Cast-Iron Corn Bread

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas- I know we did. We were able to spend time with both families which was is always a blessing!

So how about some classic cornbread made in a cast iron skillet greased with bacon fat?  Um, okay!  And put down that butter, you’re not going to need it since the pan is greased with awesome.

We always  have a jar of bacon fat hanging out in our fridge.  Its awesome for greasing our cast iron and makes the best popcorn ever!  So please don’t ever throw it away…


  • Bacon Fat (for greasing)
  • 1 c. Fine Grind Cornmeal (Bob’s Red Mill works perfect)
  • 1/4 c. Butter, softened
  • 1 c. Milk
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 TBS Sugar
  • 4 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
  • 1 c. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour (I love King Arthur Flour)

Preheat that oven to 425º F.  Lightly grease a 12″ cast iron skillet with bacon fat or lard (bacon fat is going to give you the better flavor).

Sift dry ingredients together.  Stir in egg, milk, and butter until smooth (careful to not over beat).  Pour into prepared to skillet and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden and the sides begin to pull away from the edge of the pan.

Adapted slightly from Bob’s Red Mill

Categories: American, Breads, Recipes, Sides | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Restaurant Review: Omahoma Bob’s BBQ

When I was a kid, I hated BBQ sauce.  Seriously hated  it.  I don’t know why I had such a dislike for it (maybe it was because I had only had cheap stuff), but some time in my late teens, a switch flipped and I became nutty for quality BBQ.  And of course, when you have quality sauce, you need something to smother with it.  Which leads me to one of Branden and I’s favorite places to eat in downtown Wooster, Ohio: Omahoma Bob’s BBQ.

Branden and I love this place so much that we actually had them cater our backyard rehearsal dinner for our wedding last year and everyone loved it!  Bob smokes his meat with love and is usually hanging around the restaurant visiting with patrons.  Seriously, I go there at least once a month and he’s always there no matter what time of day I go.

Today’s picture is courtesy of Omahoma Bob’s and Groupon.  I had a Groupon worth $20, so Branden and I decided to go big or go home and splurge on the “Meat Sampler” for $17.99 (which by the way, is as huge as it looks).  I apologize for the poor image quality, I had to take this with my phone as I left my good camera at home.  Anywhosers, this picture shows a fine sample of the meaty goodness offered at Bob’s: (clockwise from top right) Pulled Pork, Smoked Sausage, Chicken Wings, Pork Ribs, Beef Brisket, and Smoked Pork Loin.  We also got hush puppies and fried okra as our sides (I’ve fallen in love with the fried okra, by the way).  The meat is consistently smoked to perfection (I usually get the two meat platter of pulled pork and beef brisket)- I’ve never been disappointed.

Is your mouth watering yet?  If not, something is wrong with you!  So support a local business (if you’re visiting NE Ohio) and check out Omahoma Bob’s!

Categories: American, Restaurants | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Restaurant Review: Melt Bar & Grilled

I have  a confession…I have no pictures from this wonderful slice of heaven because I got so excited about my meal when it was set down in front of me (and not to mention I was starving after a day in the sun at the pool and a drink or two at the bar while waiting for our table), that I dug right in and scarfed half the sandwich before I even knew what hit me.  So sorry, but you’re just going to have to the trip to Cleveland and experience Melt Bar & Grilled for yourself!

Anyways, I’ve been hearing about Melt Bar & Grilled for awhile now and as a lover of anything cheese, I knew I had to check this place out.  On a random Tuesday evening last week, a couple girl friends and I decided to make the hour trek up to Cleveland to experience the awesomeness that I’ve seen featured on The Food Network so many times.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  If you’re not a fan of cheese or are lactose intolerant…stay away (although they do have vegan cheese and vegetarian options if that’s your thing).

Let’s start with the bar.  You’re probably going to get the chance to experience the bar because the wait is forever!  Even on a Tuesday evening, we waited over an hour for a table.  So what are a couple of cute girls to do?  Bottoms up!  The beer list is extensive and since I really can’t seem to acquire the taste of beer, I was pleasantly surprised to see Wyder’s Pear Cider and a local hard cider both on tap.  I was also intrigued by their reasonably priced mixed drinks and settled on a Lavender Mojito for $4.75.  YUM!  This traditional mojito had lavendar buds muddled in with the mint and sugar which made for a summery twist.  I will be trying this one at home soon!

And for the grand finale…the reason I neglected to take any pictures!  I ordered the July special: Firecracker Chicken.  This delicious calorie-bomb consisted of blackened chicken with 3-pepper blackening rub, fresh avocado, grilled pineapple, and pepper jack cheese crammed between two thick slices of homemade bread, smothered in butter, and toasted to melty, gooey perfection (yes, my mouth is watering as I write this).  Seriously, the flavor combination here was unbeatable with the spicy chicken and cheese, cool avocados, and sweet grilled pineapple.  A grilled cheese lover’s dream come true.  And as if it can’t get any better, every sandwich comes with a heaping pile of fresh cut fries and homemade slaw.

So if you’re up in Cleveland, Ohio, look at Melt Bar & Grilled- it was worth every second of my two-hour round trip to experience it!

Categories: American, Restaurants | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Restaurant Review: The Weber Grill, Chicago

I’ve been neglecting my restaurant reviews from our recent trip to Chicago for some reason (I have one other one that I’d like to call out…its just waiting in my queue to be completed).  Anyways, here comes an interesting one for you…

Branden had seen The Weber Grill (no, not the physical grill, but the brand’s own restaurant) featured on the Food Network awhile back and was thrilled when we happened upon it while out for a walk.  I have to admit, I was kind of drawn by the smell of charcoal grills myself (as any carnivore would be).  It was decided, this was our dinner spot…Branden couldn’t look away from the giant weber grills so this was the only way to appease him.  Terrible, I know!

I always love a good burger, so I chose “The Farm” Kettleburger which was a half pound of ground beef and lamb, charcoal-seared and topped with applewood bacon, oven-roasted tomatoes and goat cheese.  Delicious!  The french fries were nothing to write home about, just your standard deep fried potatoes, but the burger was perfectly cooked and extra juicy.  Of course, I appreciate a quality bun as well.

My entire family’s experience here was good; everyone enjoyed their food.  Overall, while I really enjoyed my meal, when I find myself in Chicago again, I’ll be trying some different places although I might be singing a different tune if I had gone with a giant steak!  You can’t beat meat hot off a charcoal grill!  Looking for a quality, American restaurant?  This is the place for you!

Categories: American, Restaurants | Tags: | 1 Comment

Restaurant Review: XOCO, Chicago

Sound the alarm!  Branden and I found an awesome “takeout” restaurant in Chicago.  I put the term takeout in quotes because its only takeout if you truly don’t want to eat it there- if you actually want to sit down, you’ll wait a good hour to do so because the line is so long.  You might be asking if its really worth it for food.  Allow me to answer that for you: YES!

XOCO.  This is famous chef Rick Bayless’ attempt at Mexican takeout (just one of three restaurants he has in Chicago all in the same block).  What drew me to XOCO as we were passing by was the fact that fresh empanadas were being made in the front window.  Love at first sight.  What could make this place even better?  They roast their own cocoa beans on sight for chocolately drinks.  This is serious Mexican street food.  For lunch and dinner, they specialize in tortas (Mexican sub sandwiches) and caldos (“meal-in-a-bowl” soups).  They also have a couple salads, but really who’s interested in that when you can have a sandwich that was toasted in a wood-fired oven?  Yes, they toast their tortas in a wood-fired oven.  This place just kept getting better and better!

We decided to eat out meal at the restaurant because I wanted to eat it as fresh and hot as possible, so we waited and waited.  And we drooled over the menu- its amazing how many times you change your mind on what you’re going to order when you have an hour to ponder your decision.  I think we ended up doing pretty well though…

The bottom of the picture is my torta.  I had the summer special that consisted of skirt steak, a fresh cabbage slaw, lettuce, and avocado.  It was incredible and the flavors were fresh and vibrant.

Next up from the bottom, you can see the order of guac and fresh salsas that we ordered.  Branden and I can’t eat Mexican without chips and salsa…I think there’s some rule about the fact the two go hand-in-hand somewhere.

Then there’s Branden’s torta, the Pibil: wood-roasted suckling pig with achiote, black beans, pickled onion, habanero salsa.  Holy yum!  This thing was amazing and I’d be hard pressed not to order it if we went back.

My little sister ordered a caldo (seen at the top), Carnitas: Slow-cooked pork carnitas, potato-masa dumplings, chayote, roasted serrano chile, greens, arugula, avocado.  This was also delicious and HUGE.  Soup is definitely an entree at XOCO.

After our meal, I insisted that we order some churros because I had been seeing them carried out all evening and they looked awesome.  I was not disappointed at all!  We ordered ours with a side of homemade ice cream (yes, they had homemade ice cream, too!) to dip them in which was an excellent choice.  The churros came out so piping hot that I burnt my fingers on them.  The pain we must suffer to enjoy good food I guess!  The churros were probably the best I’ve ever had at a restaurant.  Seriously.

Bottom line, if you’re looking for some fabulous Mexican street food in Chicago and don’t mind waiting in a line, check out XOCO.  While I didn’t get to try any other of Rick’s restaurants, based on my experience at XOCO, I’m willing to bet that they’re pretty awesome as well!

Categories: Mexican, Restaurants | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Restaurant Review: Giordano’s, Chicago

Its been a busy month of traveling for us again; between Branden and I, we were in California, Texas, Indiana, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.  That being said, we’ve eaten out a LOT lately which is good for discovering new restaurants, but not so good for the wasteline (you’re going to see a lot of “healthy” recipes coming in the near future as I try to counteract May’s eating spree).  Last weekend we were in Chicago and found a couple gems we thought were worth sharing.

Our first Chicago adventure was to search out a traditional Chicago deep dish pizza.  Friends that live in the city suggested Giordano’s so we decided to give it a shot.  There was an incredibly long wait to get in the door, but we were able to “pre-order” our pizza so it would be ready faster when we finally were seated.  We ordered the “Tropic Delight” with pineapple, ham, and Canadian bacon, one of my favorite pizza combinations!  You can’t beat the salty ham and bacon combined with sweet tomato sauce and pineapple.  YUM!

Overall, I really liked the Chicago-style deep dish served up piping hot and flowing with gooey cheese at Giordano’s.  If you’re not a fan of TONS of cheese, this is not the place for you.  Might I suggest not eating all of the crust though?  While the crust was good, I would rather leave some room in my belly for the pizza itself.  There was so much crust that I was afraid it would swell in my stomach and my pizza nirvana would quickly come to an end.

Even though this is a tourist hot-spot, it was worth checking out to experience something Chi-town is famous for.  Branden also went in search of the best Chicago hot dog (an endeavour I did not participate in out of sheer disgust) and landed on Downtown Dog in case you’re interested.  It looked gross to me, but he loved it so much that he wanted to go back.  Sick.

Categories: Italian, Restaurants | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Restaurant Roundup: Eating in the San Francisco Financial District

During my time in the Financial District each day, I often was in search of a decent, quick meal that wasn’t from a traditional fast food restaurant.  I’ve compiled this brief list of a few places I tried that didn’t necessarily need an entire post, but could be helpful to someone traveling for business in San Francisco.

Rotee Express

I really enjoy some good Indian food, so when my class’ instructor told me that Rotee Express had good Indian takeout, I was intrigued.  For around $10, you get your choice of two entrees (the selections change daily), rice, and naan bread.  Not too bad for San Francisco where the prices for a meal can be a bit steep.  I was more than happy with with the food quality and the flavors were more than you would expect for Indian takeout (a foreign concept where I come from).


These little bakeries are all over the city and tout fresh baked goods sold through the windows on the street.  Everything here is incredibly fresh and delicious.  I had a breakfast egg sandwich here one morning that was excellent and made to order.  I also sampled a few of their cookies including a dark chocolate cookie with white chocolate chunks and a oatmeal, buckwheat, and chocolate chip cookie, both which were warm and delicious.  I’ve heard that you have to eat the cookies while they’re fresh or they turn rock solid due to the lower than usual fat content.  Specialty’s is worth checking out if you’re looking for quick baked goods on the go.

Seller’s Markets Artisan Kitchen

Seller’s Markets are a chain of local restaurants and stands spread throughout the Financial District in San Fran.  The whole premise is that its a restaurant that uses local food and practices sustainability.  Obviously, the food is organic and its made to order.  I had a turkey sandwich on sourdough with arugula, Havarti cheese, and avocados that was paired with a fresh bowl of tomato bisque, perfect for a chilly, rainy day.  If you’re looking for a quick, healthy lunch, you’ll find it at Seller’s Markets.

Out the Door (The Slanted Door takeout)

The famed Vietnamese restaurant called The Slanted Door that is located in the Ferry Building on the bay has a takeout version that’s also located in the Ferry Building.  Out the Door features daily specials like Lemongrass Chicken over Vermicelli.  The regular menu includes fresh and fried spring rolls, steamed buns, fresh salads, and a selected of Boba teas.  Very yummy, healthy, and most of all fresh!

Cafe Madeleine’s

We found this French bakery one morning while walking to our training and decided we had to stop based on the gorgeous display of French pastries in the display case.  Since breakfast time probably wasn’t the most appropriate time to have a chocolate-laden pastry, I settled on a ham and cheese croissant and a latte.  I have to say, my croissant was pretty close to those I enjoyed while actually in France, soCafe Madeleine’s was a nice, unexpected trip down memory lane for me.  Get there early, as the breakfast pastries tend to get picked over rather quickly!

Categories: American, French, Indian, Restaurants, Thai | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Restaurant Review: The Buena Vista Café, Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco

On our last evening in San Francisco, we found ourselves in the Wharf again after renting a “Go-Car” to tour part of the city (on a non-food related note, if you’re wondering what a Go-Car is, check out the website and yes, they really are as ridiculous as they look!).  After our dinner, we decided it was still too early to call it a night, so we popped into the famous Buena Vista Café.  The café is famous for bringing the famed Irish Coffee to America– a drink consisting of sugar cubes, fresh, hot coffee, Irish Whiskey, and floated cream.

We sat at the bar and ordered the Irish Coffee first; it was definitely delicious and warmed us right up as we were freezing from the relentless wind coming in off the Bay.  The café/pub was quite quaint and I could tell it hadn’t changed much over the years, which added to its charm.  After finishing our Irish Coffees, we order a Frangelico Nutty Irishmen by recommendation of the waitress who claimed it was like dessert in a cup.  Oh my, was she right!  This combination of hot coffee, Frangelico, Bailey’s Irish Cream, and floated cream on top was divine and the perfect way to finish up our evening.  The drink sipped very easily and wasn’t too strong.

I know I’ve mentioned before that I try to avoid tourist hot-spots, but this is another one of those places that I had to check out based on the fact that they were famous for something.  The Buena Vista at Fisherman’s Wharf is an awesome place to grab a warm drink and enjoy other’s company after dinner away from the chilly wind by the water.

Categories: Irish, Restaurants | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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