On a snowy January night, there were about 7 patrons in The Lemon Grove Cafe; a place that looks like it could seat about 40. It describes itself as "a cafe, coffee shop, bar, art gallery, musical venue and all-around good time." True to its self-description, I could smell coffee in the air, saw a nice bar and artwork displayed upon its walls. While there was no live music that night, I can see how it could be a musical venue and all-around good time, especially on a Friday or Saturday night. This eclectic establishment is positioned to serve breakfast, the downtown lunch crowd, locals in the evenings and college crowd on the live music nights.
While deciding on what to order, I asked the waitress what the two most popular burgers were. She started by naming and describing the first and second, then added, “But if you like…” and ran through the entire burger list. This told me that she was either a good company sales person or that all the burgers are good.
I started with an order of the Hummus appetizer. Within minutes, a generous bowlful of hummus arrived with a plentiful supply of precut pita wedges. The hummus was homemade and tasted really, really good. Its texture was very smooth and very flavorful with a hint of something like caraway seed in the background. There was enough hummus that every pita wedge, down to the last one, carried a good dollop to my mouth. It would have been fantastic if the pita had been homemade.
Being a pushover for bleu cheese, I decided upon “The Blue Angel” burger that I ordered cooked to medium. About “The Blue Angel”, the menu states, “The contrast ‘tween the burger & blue cheese will have ya singing like Marlene.” This is immediately followed by a QR code that, when scanned with a smartphone, opens YouTube to a video of Marlene Dietrich singing.
The Lemon Grove Cafe advertises that, for only 75 cents, you can add their “amazing all natural bacon” to “anything”. Because bacon rocks, I had to add it to my burger. I can only imagine what wondrous heaven awaits those who order the Bacon Cheeseburger and then, for the premium, adds more! Included with any burger is a choice of sides. I opted to try the soup. I forgot what that nights selection was called, but it was described as having a spicy sausage flavor – something that sounded good on one of northeast Ohio’s first real winter nights.
About 15 minutes later, my dinner plate arrived. On it was a nice sized, hand shaped burger covered with a thick layer of melted bleu cheese. Some lettuce, onion and a tomato slice were included. Also on the plate was about 3 ounces of the soup in a proportionately sized bowl.
As I got ready to dig in, I immediately realized that my burger did not have the “amazing all natural bacon” that I had ordered on it. When I pointed this out to the server, she apologized and immediately made a bee-line to the kitchen. As she vanished from sight, I started with the soup. It was more like chowder and had a sausage like spice to it. I enjoyed trying it, but it wasn’t the highlight of the meal.
The burger was a different story. Before I finished the soup, the server returned with a plate full of bacon. There was more than 75 cents worth on this plate. This was probably the capstone to the server’s apology for it not coming out with the order. I proceeded to put the pile of bacon on the burger. As I did, the melted bleu cheese gently squished out from underneath. I then placed the vegies on top.
When I took that first bite, I was quite pleased to find that the burger had been flame broiled. It had a slight char on it that worked magic with the flavor of bleu cheese. The tomato slice gave away it’s out of season character by being a bit dull in appearance and flavor. Otherwise, this was a very satisfying burger.
Did I sing like Marlene? No. Because I can't. But I can tell you that The Lemon Grove Café is a comfortable restaurant with tasty food and reasonable prices. While I’ll probably not trek back to it on another such a blustery, snowy night, I’ll certainly stop again should I be in Youngstown at lunch or dinner time. Eat up!
I was a late comer to food blogging in 2011 with my first post just a few weeks ago. With 2012 now underway, I took time to reflect on my last years gastronomic experiences. The two places that quickly jumped to mind were Steuben's, Denver CO and Sokolowskis University Inn, Cleveland OH.
During an early October, 2011 vacation to Denver, I took advantage of an opportunity to visit Steuben's. Established in 2006, it has endeared itself to Denverites, particularly for its Maine Lobster Roll. Steuben's and its lobster roll was featured on Food Networks Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Steuben's menu is sufficiently expanse that there is something for everybody. And, being in the city with more microbrews per capita that any place else in the United States, there is a sufficiently expanse beer menu that, aside from soft drinks and tea, offers something for everybody.
My wife ordered the talked about Maine Lobster Roll. Being in the southwest, I had to get something less eastern and ordered the Cubano. Yeah, I know, it's Latin American. I had a bite of my wife's lobster roll and, like her, wasn't really impressed. It seemed a bit soggy and a bit fishy tasting. We think that Guy missed the mark on that one.
But, the Cubano, this sandwich rocked! Pork product is one of my most favorite foods to prepare or have prepared for me. I've made my own Cuban sandwiches and have also ordered them when out. But, I have to concede that this is the best pork sandwich I've ever eaten. Soft and tender, extremely flavorful pork pressed into a sandwich - 9 bucks. I'd easily pay 10 for this one. Never having been to Cuba, though, I cannot tell you whether it is authentic. But authenticity doesn't matter here. It's how it wows the taste buds that counts.
Sokolowskis University Inn, Cleveland OH
Tucked away just a few blocks from the Interbelt Freeway in the Tremont neighborhood, at 1201 University Road, is Sokolowskis University Inn. I can't imagine what this place looked like when it was established in 1923 but, I can tell you that it looks like it's been around for awhile. When I walked in, it felt like I was visiting an old friend. I hadn't realized, until I got there, that service is cafeteria style.
When I arrived at about 5:00 on a November Saturday evening, I found myself about 80 to 100 people back in the line. This gave me plenty of time to see what others were bring back to their tables. Along the well worn path to the service counter were numerous word processed menus posted in a variety of places. A white marker board at the front of the service counter reiterated that night's specials. Looking at people's plates and seeing the menu, it didn't take but a moment to realize that this place is strictly comfort food.
It took about 20 minutes to arrive at the service counter. I was first presented with self-serve desert. Deserts included several cake and pie varieties. Then came the appetizer, side and entree selections. After that 20 minute wait, I had my heart and mind settled on having the Veal Schnitzel. How disappointed I was to find that the fellow ahead of me had ordered the last one.
I now had to scramble for an alternative as I was next to order. I quickly decided on the Salisbury Steak. For my two sides, I ordered the red cabbage and upgraded the second, for .50 cents more, for two potato filled pierogi. Surprisingly, I easily found a seat. Once seated with my tray 'o food, I looked about and saw that the cafeteria line had at least doubled from my starting point.
Quite simply, this is good, home cooked comfort food at an exceptionally reasonable price! In business since 1923, they've got to be doing something right! The Salisbury Steak very good. It was about the size and shape of a softball and covered with gravy. While the red cabbage was ok, the potato filled pierogi were hot and tender. The meal price also included a fresh salad bar. Mom would not have approved of desert being first, but she would have been proud that I cleaned my plate. I had a taste of the Chicken Paprikash from my wife's plate. Folks, if you can't get the schnitzel, get this. It was amazing! At the end of this meal, I was full. Should you go to Sokolowskis, Eat up!
The Hartville Kitchen
1015 Edison St.
Well, my girlfriend wanted to go to the Hartville Flea Market to look for sour cream glasses. There's no way I'm going to Hartville without visiting the Hartville Kitchen, so here it is. It might be an hour south of Cleveland, but well....it's good 'home cookin'. I remember going to the Hartville Kitchen when it was well, a little different. I mean, it's been pretty much 'tourist-ized'. Is that a word? Don't get me wrong- the food is still great, but they've evolved to deal with the crowds. There is usually a line, but it goes really fast, and it seems to be due to the system that they've developed so I really can't complain. Like I said, they menu consists of 'good home cooking' Amish food. I had a half order of the roast beef sandwich- roast beef on two slices of bread with home made mashed potatoes and gravy. My girlfriend had a half order of the creamed chicken and vegetables- served over a biscuit and mashed potatoes. Again, both of the dishes in the picture are the half orders- the full orders looked huge! We wanted to save room for some of the home made pie.
After we ate lunch, we hit the flea market. In addition to all of the odds and ends that you'll find at a flea market, there is plenty of food. Outside, there were several fruit and vegetable vendors, and we ran into a really nice guy by the name of Adam Groves who roasts his own coffee. I tried a sample of the Rwanda Bourbon roast, and it was excellent. We bought a whole bean sample pack of his coffees, and I would really recommend that you give him a try. He's based out of Mogadore, and his website is grovescoffee.com.
There's plenty of food inside too- from Duma Meats to a booth that specialized in Asian foods and sauces. There are also several places that sold all kinds of cheeses, lunch meats, and jerky/beef sticks. Oh- and there's also the Pierogi Lady! We'd actually bought a Groupon deal earlier in the week for some pierogis from her. The woman that was at the booth (I'm assuming that she was 'the' pierogi lady...) was really friendly. We picked up some of the potato cheddar and some of the cheese, spinach, and mushroom pirogies. Out of respect to my Polish grandmother, I'm a pretty tough judge of pierogis, but I'll let you know how these are just as soon as we get a chance to try them (they're pre-boiled and frozen when you buy them). In the meantime, her Facebook page is: www.facebook.com/pages/The-Pierogi-Lady/225285364168603 .