Blogs > Eating It Up Locally!

Who wants to cook? Let’s go out to eat. See where News-Herald staff members dined and where they go to unwind in our area. You might just find a new treasure in your own neighborhood.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dining Out: Cleveland Slovenian fixture boasts uneven food but a fun time for families, polka fans

I remember seeing Sterle’s Country House in Cleveland on an episode of Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” a few years ago and, recalling the place from my childhood, thinking that it was none of those.

It’s not, but it’s not exactly the place from my childhood, either.

Frank Sterle opened what used to be known as Frank Sterle’s Slovenian Country House on East 55 Street in 1954. If you have Slovenian roots and have lived in Cleveland at any time since then, you’ve probably been to the place. Sterle died in 1986, and the restaurant was operated by new partners from then until 2012, when Rick Semersky bought it.

It’s still going to be known simply as “Sterle’s” (ster-LEES) by most of its longstanding clientele, so the tweak to the name isn’t a big deal. A bigger deal is that there’s now an outdoor bier garden, waitresses in black T-shirts instead of the traditional dirndl, and some items on the menu that Frank Sterle didn’t serve.

We went on a recent Saturday, doing Sterle’s the way it is best experienced: in a large group and when there’s live polka music. This is what hasn’t changed from the years gone by – families dance while accordions loudly pump out songs that everybody present has heard a thousand times. The band the night of our visit started at 6, and by 7 the large dining hall inside the Alpine ski-lodge-styled old building was nearly full.

Read more from Correspondent Mark Koestner at Dining Out: Cleveland Slovenian fixture boasts uneven food but a fun time for families, polka fans.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Dining Out: Granite City Food & Brewery at Legacy Village pairs good beer, food for fine time

In December, on a day taken off for Christmas shopping, I popped into the new Granite City Food and Brewery at Legacy Village in Lyndhurst. 

Opened in November in the space formerly inhabited by Joseph-Beth Booksellers, the restaurant is part of a 30-location chain that started in St. Cloud, Minn., and now has a presence in 13 states. 

It was mid-afternoon, and I had eaten lunch not that long before, so I just bellied up to the appealing bar to try one of their beers, settling on the Broad Axe Stout. Described as having notes of chocolate and coffee, the oatmeal stout sounded great on the blustery day. I enjoyed the mellow atmosphere in the big, open place and did peek at the menu, so I was interested in coming back for a meal.

That opportunity presented itself on the first real day of the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament, aka March Madness. A buddy and I took a break from binge watching to fill up on food and, of course, a little beer.

Read more in Entertainment Editor Mark Meszoros' review Dining Out: Granite City Food & Brewery at Legacy Village pairs good beer, food for fine time.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Dining Out: Kickstart Grill at Coach's Tavern in Willowick is a kick

When one of our friends suggested we make a visit to Kickstart Grille at Coach's Tavern in Willowick, it didn't take a lot of convincing for me to go. A new place with fresh bar food in a casual environment? I'm in.

So my wife and I and another couple visited on a recent Saturday, and it wasn't until we pulled into the parking lot that we realized Coach's Tavern is the former site of Buffalo Wild Wings. That, of course, is long gone, but none of us had been there since it left.

Actually, it didn't completely leave. The layout of the place is similar, with the kitchen distinctly separated from the bar, the way all BW3s seem to be set up. If you forced me to wager, I'd say that the formica-topped high tables and stools that populate the dining room are also holdovers.

Coach's is in a lot of ways the prototypical neighborhood bar – on the dim side, not too big, quite a few flat-screen TVs. But not-so-typical is the food part of the equation. Kickstart Grille arrived in January, and is not fully integrated – at least not yet – into the whole place. For example, we ordered and paid separately for food and drinks.

Lake County native Dennis Blakeslee is the one who has brought Kickstart into Coach's, which was without a kitchen for some time and is now open for lunch. He takes pride in using only fresh ingredients throughout the menu, which is dotted with the description “disgustingly delicious.” And a fair amount of bacon.

Read more at Correspondent Mark Koestner's review: Dining Out: Kickstart Grill at Coach's Tavern in Willowick is a kick.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Dining Out: Momocho sister restaurant El Carnicero serves interesting modern Mexican cuisine

Ever since The News-Herald reviewed Momocho -- a modern-Mexican restaurant in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood -- I’ve been dying to try it.

But Momocho is small. And very, very popular.

I once walked in with a friend on a Saturday night and was told the wait would be about an hour and a half, if memory serves. Having worked out shortly before we’d headed west for the night, my friend was in no mood for that kind of wait. I’d blame my not eating there that night on her, but the packed placed didn’t seem an ideal place to kill an hour and a half of our lives. So it was a no-go.

When another friend recently suggested we try El Carnicero in Lakewood, Momocho’s newer — and bigger — sister restaurant, I was decidedly on board, even though I knew I would have trouble sticking to my low-carb diet for the night. (You gotta have priorities, people.)

We met for some “mod Mex,” as they call it, around 7 on a recent Saturday night, and when I’d arrived in the fairly spacious eatery, I found Erin at the back bar, where she’d procured us a couple of seats. (This was already going better than my Momocho attempt.)

Read more on Assistant Managing Editor Mark Meszoros' review: Dining Out: Momocho sister restaurant El Carnicero serves interesting modern Mexican cuisine.

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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Hold The Coffee moving to its own News-Herald blog

Hold The Coffee is out of its trial-phase and is ready for the big boys. (Big boys like NEOMG's upcoming coffee shop blog from reporter Chanda Neely. I am super excited for its launch.)

Yes, that is a T-shirt sporting the logo from
"Relax, It Is Just Coffee" in Mansfield. My
boyfriend Matt bought it as a Valentines gift.
Readers of my weekly coffee shop adventures will need to go to the official Hold The Coffee blog to find future reviews of local neighborhood coffee shops. Nothing against the Eating It Up Locally blog. (I am a big foodie who loves the restaurant reviews posted here.) It's just hard to send out links to my content when it's only a search label inside the bigger-themed blog. This new blog should help readers find more of my posts more easily. 

Back in November, Digital and Mobile Editor Cheryl Sadler and I agreed to embed the blog into Eating It Up Locally so that there wouldn't be much heart ache in case my enthusiasm for posting fizzled out quickly. (Afterall, I work a full-time job covering the crazy and fun stories in the east end of Lake County. This blog is only a fun hobby of mine.) Fourteen posts later, I have proven my commitment to reviewing coffee shops and in a talk this Friday, Cheryl agreed to make a News-Herald blog dedicated to my weekly reviews of coffee shops.

I have already copied all of my previous posts to the new blog and I hope to post a new one today focused on a very sophisticated coffee shop in Cleveland's Gateway District.

You probably won't see any difference in content in the new blog--I am still going to review everything but the actual coffee served at the coffee shops. But maybe this blog will allow enough exposure to give me a post that breaks triple-digit clicks. 

Again, if you have suggestions of a coffee shop for a future entry, send it to me via on Twitter at @SimonSaysNH.

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Hold The Coffee @ Loop in Tremont

EDITOR’S NOTE: To read the latest posts on Simon’s coffee shop adventures, visit his blog at

It should go without saying that my boyfriend, Matt, knows me very well. So well that he knows what my ideal Valentines date is without asking. (HINT: Think of the furthest thing away from Applebees.)

What a great sport! Matt never complains about
modeling in my low-angle storefront shots.
I have many ideal dates and one of them is adventuring around Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood, disputably my favorite area of Northeast Ohio. It's walkable, has plenty of mixed-use buildings, a wide arrange of unique bars, restaurants, stores and... of course, coffee shops. And unlike other young, energetic areas I've visited such as Ohio City, University Circle and Detroit Avenue, Tremont offers a slower-pace environment that feels more like a neighborhood than a commuter destination.

Anyway, this post isn't dedicated to my love of Tremont; it's here to review a very awesome coffee shop along West 11th Street that also doubles as record and CD store. (Groundbreaking idea!)

Loop, at 2180 W. 11th St., was the final stop for our date after browsing literature and sipping wine at Vision Voice Books and stuffing carbs into our faces at Crust, both on Kenilworth Avenue.

Oooooh... I always get excited over coffee shops with
two floors.
Location: Considering I already spilled my heart out for Tremont, I'll just focus this section on the corner of West 11th Street and Fairfield Avenue. Like most of Tremont, Loop is weaved along mostly houses with a few eateries and retailers in the mix. But this area is far from Tremont's most vibrant pastures.

A few fenced parking lots are dotted along Fairfield Avenue, and many of the houses along both streets aren't as majestic as Tremont's historic reputation would make you believe. And despite all of that, the area has plenty of appeal. In fact, part of me thinks the sour spots add a layer of character to the intersection.

Talking about character, Matt and I had the pleasure of watching runners finish their course of Cupid's Undie Run across the street at South Side restaurant. (Sorry, I didn't shoot any photos of any of the runners.)

After choking down a Lemon Rosemary Chicken pizza
at Crust, Matt and I figured it would be wise to split
only one muffin this time. We were so proud of ourselves.
Food and Beverages: Loop aligns itself along with most coffee shops, serving primarily cookies, scones and muffins in addiction to its caffeinated beverages.

That Saturday, Matt and I ordered a coffee cake muffin, a 20-ounce double-shot espresso and a 16-ounce cup of coffee for $8 and change. The double-shot belonged to Matt, who was going to order Loop's Death Charge that contains three espresso shots. Luckily, he was talked out of it.

I don't typically do this, but I have to give Loop credit on its milk and sweetener stand. Unlike some other places I've visited, Loop offers unbleached sugar in addition to the conventional artificial stuff of Equal and Splenda. (I have yet to find a coffee shop that offers packets of natural Stevia.) More rare to see, they label their pictures with skim milk and half-and-half. It's always good to know what fluid I am pouring into my coffee without needing to bother the barista.

Matt had a fun time looking through Loop's music
collection, but he doesn't buy CDs often. He more
often rents them out at his local library.
Space and Atmosphere: If you're anything like my News-Herald colleague Andrew Cass, you probably skipped down to this section the second you read the phrase record and CD store. And unlike many of the bookstore-slash-coffee-shop combinations I've visited, Loop actually acts more like a half and half business. There's a few boxes and shelves on the coffee shop's first floor, and a far bigger library on its second floor. The second floor even has a station upstairs for patrons to listen to vinyl. Very cool.

The shop also offers very stellar work space for laptops. The first floor has outlets for almost every seat or stool available and its light-colored walls and ceiling lights provide plenty of illumination. (And yes, Loop like every coffee shop has free WiFi. No password needed either.)

Fun Fact: My first visit to Loop, pictured here,
is where I decided to start this coffee shop blog after some
encouragement from five of my News-Herald colleagues,
Amy, Andrew, Devon, Caitlin and Sam.
I now have 13 posts under my belt. Thank you, guys!
Loop also keeps artwork that's for sale mounted on its two-story wall.

Ironically enough, Matt and I learned Saturday that Loop had organized a special art walk for Valentines Day. It's a shame we missed it, but news at the News-Herald doesn't slow down on Valentines Day. For a plan B, Matt and I did spend Friday evening at our favorite Euclid bar, Paragon on Lake Shore Boulevard.

Again, if you have suggestions of a coffee shop for a future entry, send it to me via on Twitter at @SimonSaysNH.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Dining Out: Concord Township's Pub Frato is true, wonderful gastropub

These days, the term “gastropub” gets thrown around with carelessness. Originally meant to convey the concept of a drinking establishment that serves high-end food, its connotation has devolved to, basically, “a bar with food.”

Photo by Mark Koestner
That’s certainly not the case with Concord Township’s latest entry on the eating/drinking scene: Pub Frato, a pub that genuinely puts the “gastro” in “gastropub.”

And it’s a little unexpected when you walk in. The pub occupies a space that formerly housed a coffee house in the Gristmill Village shopping strip, and it has similarly small physical footprint. A contemporary, concrete-and-corrugated metal bar occupies most of one half of the long, narrow space, and a few tables along the opposite reclaimed-wood wall are situated close together.

It’s an intimate place, where you can imbibe shoulder-to-shoulder with your friends and easily meet new ones, which our party did on a recent Saturday. Twelve taps of craft beers and a creative cocktail menu send the message that Pub Frato takes its drinks seriously. But when you sit down for a meal, there’s no mistaking it: The food here is the real deal.

Read more from Correspondent Mark Koestner's review: Dining Out: Concord Township's Pub Frato is true, wonderful gastropub.

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