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Friday, December 24, 2010

One Red Door

Place:  One Red Door
Location:  49 Village Way, Hudson, Ohio, 44236 Google Maps

Quick Blurb:
I first met One Red Door during the Taste of Hudson this past October; Macaroni & Cheese topped with Smoked Brisket. I thought the brisket was delicious (the mac & cheese wasn’t bad either). Regardless, it still has taken some time for me to make my way for a sit-down meal - I’m glad that I finally was able to.

Review:
Appearance:
You won’t have trouble finding the place – akin to its name, there is one, large red door for the entrance. Inside, brick walls, exposed beams with big bolts and nice hardwood floors outlined the place. A long, J-shaped bar is to your right with some booths and to your left is an elevated seating area. In front of you, some more tables and an open view of the kitchen. Small halogen lights provide ample lighting and promoted a modern, lounge-like atmosphere.

Staff:
We were greeted at the door by the hostess and seated promptly – after having the option of choosing which available table to sit. Our waiter was very friendly and upbeat, speaking clearly and giving us plenty of time to look through the menu. Finally, the waitress who seemed to take over (as our original waiter got a table of 8 to look after), was equally friendly, ensuring that we had everything we needed. I’d like to point out that at no time did we even think a different server was necessary, but they took it upon themselves to determine that we would be better served with someone else looking after us.

Meal:
Appetizer:
Their appetizers are tapas style. We chose to start off with a double order of the chicken wings (3 wings x 2):

Crispy confit of all natural chicken wings / smoked chili hot sauce / yogurt blue cheese / celery hearts
  
I’ll begin by saying that the wings were bare and that I have never had a plain chicken wing taste so good; crispy, juicy and fresh. The sauce was underneath the wings, spread across the plate; the yogurt blue cheese was drizzled within the chili sauce. There wasn’t a lot, so you had to work a bit in order to get some on the wing, but the smoked chili hot sauce was very delicious - just the right bite, a light smoky flavor and a hint of mustard. The blue cheese must have been overpowered by the chili sauce – even when I dipped the wing right in the blue cheese, most of what I tasted was the smoky chili sauce.

While tasty, as as a sauce lover, I'll opt for something else as it is a bit of a fight to have some on the wing.

Entrée:

Chef’s burger / Ohio grass fed beef / crispy shallots / melted brie cheese / date, apple wood bacon aioli / house chips

I really enjoyed this burger. The meat was cooked perfectly; the bun was fresh and slightly toasted; the house chips light and crispy. I was enjoying just looking at everything. I saw the aioli, put some on the bun and took a bite…yum! The crispy shallots really added a good crunch and onion flavor, the brie was subtle yet noticeable, and the bacon bits in the aioli were just amazing.

Bite by bite, I savored the juicy burger and the combination of flavors; in-between I helped myself to the house chips. They didn’t bring ketchup out with the plate, but I didn’t need it - the aioli more than sufficed for both the burger and chips.

Desserts:
It was a late lunch and we had dinner plans with friends, so we opted out of having something sweet (a shock, I know, as my wife always has dessert).

Drinks:
Celebration for the holiday season, I went for a vodka martini despite it being 2pm. My wife had the infamous Great Lakes Christmas ale on draft – both excellent selections.

Prices:
The chicken wings were 3 for $4.50 and the hamburger was $10. Now-a-days, $10 burgers are not un-common, but you want to make sure you’re getting $10 worth – I’ll argue that you are here. I feel that the wings were slightly on the pricey side and, as mentioned before, while I enjoyed them, I'd prefer more sauce to pair with the wings - so I'll pass next time.

Overall Experience:
Opened by the owners of Downtown 140, One Red Door had some clout coming in and I was especially excited to try it after the Taste of Hudson. For lunch, it didn’t disappoint. While the tapas appetizer menu is similar to Downtown 140, the regular menu items are unique when considering the other options at First and Main. Next door, they plan on opening up a burger joint, “Flip Side”. It still was under construction, but if their burgers are anywhere near as good as the one I had, it will be take some convincing to make the trek to The B-Spot.

I’ll see how One Red Door fares for dinner next time, but based upon the lunch, I recommend paying them a visit.




One Red Door on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hartville Café & Arabica Coffee House

Place: Hartville Café & Arabica Coffee House
Web-site: http://arabicahartvillecafe.com/
Location: 1273 W. Maple St. Hartville, Oh 44632 Google Maps

Quick Blurb:
My first visit to Hartville Café was a mixed bag. On one hand, I loved the idea of the place and they had an appetizing menu, but on the other, the food I chose just wasn’t anything special. I will say that when I’m in the area, I’ll be going back to try out some other items and definitely will have some dessert.

Review:

Appearance:
Walking from the parking lot I had the “what is this place?” thought going on in my head. There isn’t really much to the outside. But once you walk in, it instantly gives you a warm, cozy feeling. There are some knick-knacks scattered around that you can buy from the store while you weave your way to the main dining area, passing along the way the bakery with giant muffins, pastries and desserts.

We sat on the main floor and I noticed that upstairs is where the tea room is situated. I believe you can also rent out this area for banquets or parties. Fun, homey decorations hung on the walls and on stands throughout. A few of the people I was eating with thought the place was too cold but I had a sweater on with a shirt underneath, so I didn’t feel it. Now people do have different tolerances to the cold, but I thought I would mention it.

Staff:
Very down to earth staff. Everyone was friendly from the moment we walked in. However, the serving of the food was done without any synchronization. Salads were brought out together, but two soups arrived 5 minutes later and the last soup was an additional 5 minute wait. Then one wrap came, then two pizzas, then another 5 min break and three other wraps came out.

Meal:

Appetizer:
While we didn’t order any, the waitress did come out with a complimentary sample of their vanilla chai tea in an espresso cup. I thought this was a very nice touch to start off the meal and coincided well with the aura of the place.

Entrée:
I opted for one of their new pizzas that they were advertising heavily (no joke, I saw three flyers displaying their new pizzas). As some of you know, I’m a sucker for pizza; it’s so versatile and so easy to personalize. I looked through their menu and while some other items caught my eye, the Asian Chicken Wrap for example, it was ultimately always going to be impossible to distract me from ordering one of their pizza options: Vegetarian, Italian, and Margherita. I was rather hungry so I opted for the Italian since the pepperoni, cooked ham, and roasted peppers seemed more filling than pure veggies or cheese.

The pizza came with a salad and I ordered blue cheese dressing. Nothing out of the ordinary here; pretty much what you would expect a complimentary salad to be. The lettuce was fresh and the dressing rich and creamy. The tomatoes were good considering it is December and we have a foot of snow outside, so I enjoyed it.

In the mean time, I should note that three people ordered the Chicken Noodle soup and, while there was the issue of timing, two people commented that it was only luke-warm. Granted, they were the same people who were cold in general, so perhaps the soup cooled down just being around them – I can’t say for sure since I didn’t volunteer to taste test...

And now for the moment I had been waiting for, my pizza! Upon it being laid down in front of me, I started regretting my decision. It was a small, four-slice pizza, on what I determined to be flat bread as a crust, and the toppings didn’t go very close to the edge. Ok, I thought – here’s to hoping the ingredients and flavour really pop! I tried cutting the slices apart from one another and either a) my knife was too dull or b) the crust was really that hard, but after pressing down with the knife with so much force that I almost let my pizza fly off my plate once cutting all the way through, I decided that I would just use my hands to pull the pieces apart – quickly mind you, to avoid burning myself as, opposite the accusations of the chicken soup, the pizza was HOT!

Ok, patience, I get it. Finally, I picked up a piece and noticed it was very soggy – the cooked ham was the culprit here. Argh, ok, keep going, I’m hungry. Take a bite, chew, taste the sauce, the ham, the pepperoni, and the bell peppers. Hmm, well the sauce was ok, a little too acidic for me; the ham had a good flavour, but was too watery; pepperoni is a staple and tasted as you would expect; and finally, the chopped bell peppers were pretending to be the promised roasted peppers. So, as you can imagine, the super hard crust on the end, mixed with a watery center from the ham and no roasted peppers, I felt a little deceived. But, down the hatch it went.

Desserts:
Unfortunately, none – but from the look of the desert counter, I am sad that I ate lunch and didn’t just get dessert!

Drinks:
For the first time in a while, I opted for a “specialty drink” – their Pumpkin Chai. This was really, really good. Hot chai tea, with real pumpkin puree, whipped cream and cinnamon. Yum! Maybe that’s what I wasn’t cold? Others ordered water or soft drinks.

Price:
I didn’t pay as it was a business meeting, but $11.99 for a pizza that even a pizza lover thought, “eh”, is a bit steep. Yes, it did come with a salad, but it was just a side salad, nothing really to it. I don’t know how much the Pumpkin Chai was (no price listed on the menu), but it was delicious!

Overall:
While I was disappointed in the pizza, everyone else’s wraps / sandwiches looked good. Plus, the bakery section…let me just say that I’ve never seen muffins so big.

Note - As mentioned, I was on a business meeting and couldn't take photos for the blog. When I go back, I'll be sure to take some and share

Arabica & Hartville Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Melt Bar & Grilled

Place: Melt Bar & Grilled
Web-site: http://www.meltbarandgrilled.com/
Location: 13463 Cedar Road Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118  Google Maps

Quick Blurb:
Experiencing Melt’s sandwiches is something that everyone must do at some point (very much like Gasoline Alley). Unique, tasty and redefining the phrase “comfort food”, Melt serves up gigantic grilled cheese sandwiches stuffed with almost anything you can imagine (lasagna or perogies anyone?).

Review:
Appearance:
Arriving at their second, newer location in Cleveland Heights (aka East Side), we were met with 24/7 parking meters! Oh no! Luckily we scrounged up some coins, popped them in and off we went. Not much to look at as you walk to the entrance besides abandoned storefronts; it would be great if having Melt here attracts more business to the area.

Once inside, you can experience every holiday at once! Decorations for Halloween and Christmas look as if they hang year round – very fun. Lots of photos on the wall; I assume to fulfill your time waiting for a seat.
Not a great shot, but here's a view of where we sat at the bar - you can see the holiday decorations in the background
Staff:
We arrived at 2pm on a Sunday and there was still a wait to be seated along with the phone ringing non-stop. The staff still took time and gave us “the time of day”, so to speak – I admire that. We chose to bypass the table wait and sit at the bar. Our waitress told us up front that it was going to be about a 35 min wait for food once we ordered – I like the honesty and straight forwardness.

Meal:
Appetizer:
Um, take a look at the size of the sandwiches and you’ll understand why we didn’t even consider ordering any appetizers.

Entrée:
I psyched myself up before coming by watching the Man vs. Food episode where he attempts the Melt Challenge – over 3 ½ pounds of cheese, plus fries and cole slaw…

I opted against insanity and chose the Big Popper instead. By now, some of you will know my love of ‘hot’ and I just couldn’t resist when the first ingredient listed is “fresh jalapeno peppers”. Keeping the jalapenos company: cheddar & herbed cream cheese, beer battered bread, and mixed berry preserves…Yum.
Imagine a pile of cole slaw hidden behind the Big Popper
When this was placed in front of me, I thought they might have somehow given me the Melt Challenge – not the case. My eyes couldn’t process what was in front of them, but I bravely moved forward and took the first of three pieces of Big Popper that lay in front of me.

The first bite definitely included a fresh jalapeno pepper; so far so good. The herbed cream cheese overpowered any cheddar that may have been included, but that doesn’t bother me. Then I start to appreciate the beer battered crust of the bread, which was sprinkled with some powdered sugar; it reminded me of a funnel cake from a county fair. Surprisingly, it worked. One piece down, two to go; I’ll skip ahead and let you know that I could only finish one other piece and took the last home with me (which I ate that evening after heating it up in the oven). The richness of the cheese and the thick beer battered bread slices were very filling.

After my second piece, I decided to engage the sides. Not being a cole slaw lover, I figured I might as well get that part out of the way. Crunchy cabbage, vinegary dressing, with a hint of sweetness – I’ll be the first to admit, I took more than one bite; that never happens. I didn’t finish it off, but I actually liked cole slaw that afternoon.

Onto the fries: no doubt about their freshness. These were homemade fries, nicely deep fried to a dark golden brown, salted well, and not greasy! They get a ‘thumbs up’ from me.

My wife opted for the Wake and Bacon. She prepped all day for this, starting by eating cereal instead of eggs and bacon that morning for breakfast; it paid off with her coming within a few bites of finishing it (albeit she only had two pieces to my three). She was raving about it throughout the meal and continued to on the ride home – so I can honestly say that she would recommend it.
One of the best 'breakfast sandwiches' you'll taste!
Desserts:
The last piece of my sandwich later that day.

Drinks:
Melt has a great draft beer selection – I opted for the Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA.

Prices:
Most sandwiches were priced between $8 and $11. Beers about $4 average.

Overall Experience:
After hearing all the hype, I did enjoy my experience here at Melt. Would I get my sandwich again? Probably not; but only because there are many other masterpieces that I would like to try. Well, maybe also because I ate a lot of Big Popper! The servings are big and I saw people polishing off their plates (impressive).
We were lucky to find a seat at the bar and not have to wait 45 minutes for a table – this was Sunday at 2pm (as we have read in other reviews, the waiting time can be a little on the obnoxious side).
Ultimately, come with a big appetite and enjoy selecting your concoction from the menu, oh, and enjoy a beer while you wait!


Melt Bar and Grilled on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Vaccaro's Trattoria

Place: Vaccaro's Trattoria
Web-site: www.vactrat.com/
Location: 1000 Ghent Road Akron, OH 44333  Google Maps

Quick Blurb:
Located in an obscured strip mall – off a road literally 5 yards before an on-ramp to a highway, Vaccaro’s offers traditional Italian food and a decent wine list. We were privileged to be invited to experience a, chef inspired, 6-course prix-fixe meal.

Review:
Appearance:
Vaccaro’s is hidden off the road in a strip mall that I honestly have never noticed before. A quaint outdoor sitting area greets you as you walk in, albeit it seems slightly forced as one overlooks the plaza parking lot, which in turn overlooks the highway on-ramp. Walking in, I noticed the white linen tables and the photos and art pieces hanging on the walls. Some music plays in the background; a charming atmosphere.

Staff:
From the moment we walked in, we were greeted with smiles. We were there with a dinner party of 13 and we had our table nicely situated towards the back of the room. Our waiter was very polite and did the small things very well: remembered your name, what drink/type of wine you were having, etc.

Meal:
As mentioned, we participated in a 6-course prix-fixe meal. Reservations were at 6pm and we waited a good 40 minutes for the first course to arrive. In the mean time, they served us some bread and olive oil for dipping, but didn’t provide us with plates. Apparently, the bringing the bread to the table was a mistake and they were out of bread plates. (I’m as confused as you are reading this). Oh well, onto the meal!

#1
Soup and Sandwich, Smoked Tomato Bisque/Mini Grilled Cheese Panini
Vaccaro’s spin on the typical grilled cheese and tomato soup. The smoked tomato bisque was delicious. While slightly more dense that what I am used to (a bit sauce-ish), the smokiness and sweetness of the tomatoes really complimented each other well. I loved it.

As for the mini grilled cheese, well, there was nothing mini about it! This was a grilled cheese with a multitude of cheeses including mozzarella and goat cheese. Not that a large sandwich filled with cheese was enough, it was coated in panko breadcrumbs and then deep fried. Well, this sounds amazing, but for the first of six courses, a bit overwhelming. Unfortunately, my sandwich was mainly mozzarella and lacked the other flavours that others were talking about. I still ate it up as I’m a grilled cheese fan!

#2
Baby Arugula/Fresh Citrus/Scamorza/Cirignolo Olives/Cinzano Vinaigrette
Following the soup, came the salad. You can play “look for the olives” all you want in the photo, but you won’t find any – they got lost with the bread plates I suppose!

If there wasn’t so much salt on the salad (yes, salt), I would have really enjoyed this. I enjoyed the bitterness of the lettuce and citrus fruits, offset slightly by the sweetness of the berries. But the salt – oh, I don’t know if the shaker must have had larger holes than normal, but it was very salty. Not everyone at the table complained about it, but there were others – so perhaps the salad was made in batches? I’d expect consistency of making a salad to be relatively easy.

#3
Fried Green Tomato/Shrimp & Langostino
This was my second favourite dish – after the surprise main course. The tomato in the description was actually a squash – cucuzza to be exact. This had a very eggplant-esque look and taste to it. Filled with baby shrimp and langoustine in a mayonnaise sauce, I felt this was the most unique dish of the six - it reminded me of the Belgian dish, 'Tomates Crevettes'. Although I really enjoyed this, I felt the shrimp and langoustine ‘filling’ felt a little flat – as if it were missing the final piece to really make this plate pop.

#4
Local Heirloom Tomato Sauce/Fiochetti Pasta all Uovo Primavera
Coming to a ‘traditional Italian’ restaurant, I was hoping for a homemade pasta dish – this was going to be it! The presentation of a basic pasta and sauce dish was great; a nice touch. The heirloom tomato sauce was very nice – fresh, light, and full of flavor. The pasta, however, took the cooking style ‘al dente’ to the extreme. I really was hoping for pasta that I could tell was fresh and homemade. Instead, I got pasta that could have really used another minute or two of cooking to be a true al dente. All together, the dish was OK.

#5
Surprise Main Course
Soup, salad, seafood, pasta, and now, the meat – a thick bone-in lamb tenderloin to be exact. Cooked to a perfect medium-rare, and topped with an apricot demi-glaze; I was left wanting more. The lamb didn’t have much of a gamey taste to it, so my wife who doesn’t go head over heels for lamb, enjoyed it very much. The mashed potatoes that accompanied it were seasoned well and helped soak up the juice and flavours of the dish. I very much enjoyed this course, and as I said just a moment before, I definitely wanted some more.
#6
Housemade Ricotta with Lemon Mousse, Fresh Berry Compote – Toasted Savoiardi
The dessert was served in a small martini glass full of colour from the berries and aesthetically pleasing to the eye (apologies for the dark photo). Crumbled lady fingers topped it off. I didn’t taste the lemon mousse (I believe I heard the chef mention that it was a vanilla mousse mixed with ricotta); regardless, it was tasty, not heavy on the stomach (after 5 previous courses), and an excellent way to end the meal.

Drinks:
They have a great selection of wines from all over the world. I enjoyed two glasses of the Pinot Grigio, Ritratti, Trentino from Italy – very crisp, great bouquet, and a burst of flavour.

Prices:
Granted this was an organized meal, our prix-fixe was $40 a person, without drinks, tips or taxes. Typical entrees are in the $20’s.

Overall Experience:
I had big expectations coming into this dinner and they were partially met, in other words, some courses seemed to fall just short of being great. Had each course been as interesting as the lamb and cucuzza, I would have left with a more positive feeling about the place. That said, the ingredients were very fresh and other reviews that I’ve read online have been positive. Perhaps another visit is necessary; one where we order from the set menu.

Vaccaro's Trattoria on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Russo's Kitchen

Place:  Russo’s Kitchen
Web-site: www.russoskitchen.com
Location:  4895 State Road 
Peninsula, OH 44264 Google Maps 

Quick Blurb:
Russo’s is quickly becoming one of our favourite places to visit. Specializing in Italian-Creole “soul food”, Russo’s prides itself on its fresh seafood dishes and authentic flavours. Come with at least another person and share the appetizers!

Review:

Appearance:
There isn’t much to the place. It’s located next to one of the multiple motels on State Road and inside it looks like an ordinary diner. Seating is made up of mainly booths, only a few tables (I’m a table fan), and a bar where you can sit and enjoy the cooking action - I really enjoy sitting here.

Staff:
I’ve read some negative reviews on-line about the staff and I’m not really sure what they are based upon. Each time we’ve visited Russo’s we have not had a reservation – and each time the staff was happy to find us a table or allow us to sit at the bar. Our waiters have been overly friendly, prompt service while also allowing you the time to enjoy your meals (they don’t bring out your main dish when you’re still enjoying your appetizer – this is one thing that really annoys me at most places).

Meal:

Appetizer:
On our recent visit, we chose from their daily specials menu:

Tempura fried local squash blossoms filled with chevre, ricotta, lemon zest, fresh herbs & pine nuts, served with lemon garlic butter sauce.

Dave’s famous Lafaytte skillet fondue with sweet corn, roasted red bell peppers & jumbo lump crabmeat served with French bread crostini.

Ok, so both of these dishes were amazing. The stuffed blossoms combined goat cheese tartness, citrus and creamy ricotta to provide a taste the reminded me of cheese croquettes back in Belgium. The lemon garlic sauce was runny, not creamy and paired nicely, albeit a little too salty for my liking.

The skillet fondue is something that I’ll be dreaming about for a few days: Rich and creamy sauce, big chunks of crabmeat, a great level of sweetness from both the peppers and corn. The combination was simply amazing. The crostini were drizzled in some olive oil, had a great crunch and were sliced nice and thin. We ran out of crostini – not a problem – our waitress gladly provided us with some more. I highly recommend this if you see it on the menu.

Entrée:
My wife went for the chicken fried steak again. I have to admit, it is really, really good. If you’re a fan of chicken fried steak, get it here. I nicked a piece from her the first time we came and was impressed; it almost made me want to get it myself. The home-style (not perfectly whipped, had some chunks) mashed potatoes and gravy topped it off.

Who thought chicken fried steak could be so colourful?
I am glad that I ordered the soft-shell crab though. Oh my. Partnered with some fried green tomatoes and more jumbo lump crabmeat on the side made me more than happy with my choice. I was a little hesitant on the soft-shell crab – I thought it was a little too late in the season. But, our waitress assured me they were still good to eat and I can attest that she tells the truth! The tartness of the green tomatoes balanced the saltiness of the breading. Add in the sweet crabmeat and you have a nice triangle of flavours.

Presentation was very cool - the vegetable "hair" and sitting a top of a pedestal of fried green tomatoes

Desserts:
We’re always too full to even entertain the idea – but I’m not a sweet tooth, so this is ok with me!

Drinks:
They make some mean martinis – similar to Moe’s. They have a small draft beer selection, but you have some great beers to choose from.

Prices:
Both times, it cost us over $100 for the two of us. This included two martinis and two beers, two appetizers and two entrees. Some may think that it is a bit much, and I appreciate that, but in my opinion, you are definitely getting your money’s worth.

Overall Experience:
Two wonderful visits here and I’m positive there are more to come. The only complaint so far is that one dish’s sauce was a little too salty, but then again, I’m not a salt fan. Everything else has exceeded our expectations that were falsely made by reading negative reviews online; which are precisely why I started reviewing restaurants myself. I highly recommend trying Russo’s – and when you do, get a dish that has the Louisiana Crawfish sauce – as the expression says, “It’s to die for”.


Russo's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Michael Symon's B-Spot

Place: Michael Symon’s B-Spot
Web-site: http://www.bspotburgers.com/
Location: 28699 Chagrin Boulevard - Woodmere, OH 44122 Google Maps

Quick Blurb:
Having now experienced my second Michael Symon restaurant, I can say that I’m becoming a big fan of his cooking. Indoor and outdoor seating, simple menu, great draft beer selection and phenomenal burgers is what the B-Spot is all about. Seriously, the hamburgers are the best I’ve had in the area – cooked to perfection, full of distinct flavours, and oh, so juicy!

Review:

Appearance:
I didn’t know where this place was, so I was a little shocked that it was relatively close to where I live - I was expecting another downtown Cleveland drive. Immediately I noticed the outdoor seating. I love being able to enjoy the weather (see my review on The Galaxy). I only spent a few moments inside asking for a table, so I don’t know a lot about how it is in there. But, outside was great – colourful flowers everywhere, umbrellas to keep the sun off of you and attentive servers that don’t leave you hanging. Plus, you can “people watch” the shoppers that walk by.


Staff:
Everyone we talked to was very friendly - what more could you ask for? Our waitress was helpful in letting us know how “the system” operated (no appetizers , pickle bar, etc), and laughed along with us as my friend ordered the double-decker (yeah, exactly).

Meal:

Appetizer:
None here – they're considered sides. I’ll review them with the full meal below.

Entrée:
I had the Red Hot burger – piled high with pulled pork, pickled tomato, hot peppers, pepperjack cheese and finished with a sriracha mayo. Yum! I asked for it medium rare and it was perfectly cooked – this is definitely a place that I trust the quality of the meat. I liked having the pepperjack cheese in place of traditional cheddar, and I was a fan of the pickled tomatoes. I may be living on another level of hot than most, because the hot peppers weren’t hot enough for me – I like a good bite. Anyway, it didn't bother me; it just didn’t meet my expectations of the hotness. The sriracha mayo was something new to me and I enjoyed it a lot. I am a Sriracha fan to begin with; I’m not sure why I never thought about mixing it with mayo to use as a spread, but this is one idea I took back home.

Would you just look at that? You can see the pork, hot peppers, pickled tomatoes and of course, the burger!
Overall, my experience with the Red Hot burger was one that raised and set the bar in terms of burger quality in the area. I am a big fan of the Mo-Betta burger at Moe’s , but the Red Hot has too many unique things to it that really makes it stand alone.

My wife got the Thin Lizzy, my friend the Doubler and his wife the Lola burger. Everyone fell in love with their specific burger. My persistence paid off as my wife allowed me to steal a bite of her Thin Lizzy – nothing too fancy, but the carmelized onions were de-li-cious! As for The Doubler, I think that after just looking at it, I became instantly full – that’s how big it is. Kudoo’s to my friend who finished it, but I would rather go for a single patty with multiple toppings! (I’m all about variety of flavours!) Finally, the Lola burger – this just looked amazing. And if it wasn’t for my natural tendency of ordering anything that says “Hot”, I would have chosen the Lola immediately (fried egg, bacon, pickled red onions, cheddar and mayo). I am a big fan of breakfast and this is breakfast on a burger – what a solid idea. It also brought back some memories of living in Australia where I first had a fried egg on a burger. I thought it was an awesome idea back then and still do now! More than likely, the Lola burger will be my choice when I go back – oh, and I am definitely going back!

Sorry for the blurriness - but you can see how nicely the cheddar cheese is melted and the caramelized onions hanging off to the left

We did order some Lola fries (which are amazing and reminded us of our dinner at Lola’s). They’re thin cut and seasoned with rosemary and sea salt. Yum! And, after reading a review that showed the Parmesan Fondue, I just had to order it. This was something I hadn’t had before and I really enjoyed the variation. The chips were not as crispy as I would have liked, but I think that’s a personal preference…as when I said that, my wife said “oh really? I like the not so crispy ones”. Oh well, there were plenty of chips to share with four people and the fondue was very good – nicely melted and so different from the ranch / nacho cheese dip that we are all used to seeing. A fun twist!


Also to note - there is a pickle bar inside where you can load up on more pickled vegetables. I didn't go inside to try it out, but my friend's wife did and she liked it. Finally, they serve you 6 different types of "sauces" to add onto your burger if you so wish. I very much enjoyed the Lola Ketchup - give it a go!


Desserts:None – but the shakes kind of count!

Drinks:
A wonderful draft beer selection – I ordered the Rogue Somer Orange Honey Ale (Wheat Ale). I never had it before and my friend and I had just finished brewing our own Orange Blossom Honey Ale. Well, it didn’t taste anything like our concoction (not a bad thing!) but it was very refreshing with a hint of citrus and very light to drink. It paired very well with the Red Hot.



Price:
Burgers are about $10, sides range from $3 - $7 beers and shakes $5 – Not bad at all considering the quality of food your are getting.

Overall:
I now finally appreciate all the hype surrounding The B-Spot. This is yet another place that I regret not having visited earlier. That said, I’ll be back this summer – to enjoy the amazing Lola Burger and the outdoors…also to try out the other sides. I highly recommend paying a visit – it wasn’t crowded at all on a Sunday afternoon, but I do hear it gets quite busy at night time and they have a First Come – First Served policy. Have fun!

B Spot Burgers on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Old Carolina BBQ Company

Place:  Old Carolina BBQ Company
Web-site: http://www.oldcarolina.com
Location:  620 Ridgewood Crossing Drive, 
Fairlawn, OH 44333 Google Maps

Quick Blurb:
Not too many places in Ohio serve BBQ reminiscent of the south. In fact, I don’t think there is another place quite like Old Carolina in Northeast Ohio. Come for their deliciously smoked meat and true vinegar BBQ sauces.

This location is latest of three in the area – you can find the others in Massillon and Canton.

Review:

Appearance:
Located in a strip mall immediately off of the highway, the restaurant is just another building with a sign out front. Upon walking in, you notice it is very clean and has a simple layout, with a semi-diner style. There’s a counter where you order your food and then they’ll come deliver it to you. There is an area where you can get your fountain drinks and the array of BBQ sauces. It’s very much like Fuddruckers.

Staff:
I can’t talk up the staff enough – they were overly friendly, patient with us first-timers and always had a smile. They delivered our food and cleaned up after us. We even ended up staying and chit chatting with our friends past the time they closed and they never said anything that would lead us to believe that we had to get going. I finally noticed that no one else was coming in and then realized it was past closing time. They just smiled at us and said, “Hope to see you guys again!” I wish a few more restaurants could have workers this friendly.

Meal:

Appetizer:
None

Entrée:
I went for The Outlaw – with the choice of three meats from: pulled pork, beef brisket, smoked turkey, 4 ribs, 1⁄4 chicken or 3 tenders. I chose the pork, ribs and tenders. It included two sides and I chose: Mac N Cheese and Fries

What a meal. The ribs were smoked beautifully – prior to eating with a sauce, I tried some of the meat ‘au natural’. The meat fell right off the bone – literally, and had a great crispy crust on the top with a smoky flavour that didn’t overwhelm. Then came the pulled pork – lovely strings of juicy pork and, again with a great smoky flavour. Finally, the tenders – they look so simple and like every other tender you get in restaurants, but once I took a bite, I noticed the quality difference in the chicken. The breading had some good seasoning and was nice and crispy, locking in all the juiciness of the chicken. I could have each of these plain – but I had to dig into the sauces:

Original Classic (sweet)
Piedmont #5 (tangy)
Original Gold (golden bbq)
Screamin’ Beaver (tastefully hot)

All vinegar based, my favourites are the Screamin’ Beaver and the Original Classic. Others at the table were totally sold on the Original Gold. This doesn’t mean that the Piedmont #5 was bad – it too had its uniqueness. I think these are four very different sauces and you will find the one that suits you – have fun figuring it out!

My dish came with two sides – I opted for the fries and the Four Cheese Mac N Cheese. I wasn’t really impressed with the sides:  the fries were OK, but you could tell they were frozen; the Mac N Cheese, even though gloating four cheeses in its name, didn’t even taste like there was any cheese in it. Luckily, the meat was so much that I didn’t need to eat the sides to feel satisfied.

Desserts:
None

Drinks:
The sweet tea was delicious!

Prices:
$31 for two people. Very affordable.

Overall Experience:
I would find myself coming back here for a BBQ fix, but I wouldn’t get the meals that come with the sides, not worth it. The BBQ smoked meat is really, really good; moist and flavourful even without sauces. The people are extremely polite and the prices are reasonable. I don’t know why there were a lot of negative reviews online about this place, unless the restaurant has changed its cooking methods since then. Some people complained about the meat being too dry – not the case. Others complained that the sauce was an extra charge – again, not the case. I say go there and see for yourself and let me know you thoughts!



Old Carolina Barbecue Company on Urbanspoon