Thursday, January 26, 2012

Swenson's Drive In


 There are a lot of places today to eat out.  Few operate as they did when they first opened 75 years ago, unless you are Swenson’s.  This drive-in still operates the old fashion way—bringing fantastic food curbside.  Stop and think about it, how many eating establishments to do you know of that are 75 years old?  This is a true Northern Ohio success story.  In the 1934 Wesley T. (pop) Swenson opened his first Swensons drive in.  Today they have locations in West & North Akron, Stow/Kent, Montrose, Seven Hills, North Canton and Massillon.  What sets them apart is not just their curbside service, it’s their food.  Among their large assortment of burgers and sandwiches, one stands out to be my favorite, the Galley Boy!  This luscious double cheeseburger has two very special sauces.  The flavor profile can’t be explained, it has to be experienced.  The Galley Boy is always served with a green olive pinned to the top with a toothpick, which serves as a reminder that consistency keeps a business running, in this case for 75 years.

They also have ¼ pound all beef fried baloney sandwich on a toasted bun.  That’s a sandwich that will never go out of style.  If you’re not in the mood for burger, perhaps you’ll enjoy slow roasted pork served plain or barbecue.  Perhaps a mild white fish sandwich that is lightly breaded or a baked ham sandwich would be more to your liking. Of course I have to mention a favorite standby, a good hot dog (I like it with Coney sauce).  If you are so inclined to eat healthier, they have a lighter fare to satisfy the hungriest diners.  Their salad boy sandwich is a delicious vegetable burger topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, melted cheese and two special sauces.  You’ll find the olive included as well.  They also offer a 4 oz. grilled chicken breast served either Plain, Barbecue or Cajun.  They even have a Veggie Special which is lettuce, tomato, dill pickles, onions and honey mustard on a toasted whole grain bun.  Of course I would add bacon to that.  Alternatively I could order a Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato on white or wheat bread.  And finally 2 classic sandwiches destined to be family favorites for many years to come, Egg Salad and Grilled Cheese.

If your appetite calls for a little more sustenance, check out their dinners.  Shrimp, fish or chicken dinners are available.  They have a variety of fresh salads from a crispy dinner salad, chef salad, grilled chicken or steak salad.  They round off their offerings with hot soups and desserts.  You’ll also find a children’s menu filled with favorites guaranteed to get your little one to eat.  You can download their menu and start planning your venture into the past and enjoy a true Ohio treasure.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Aladdin's Eatery

Aladdin's rolls out the magic carpet of food
by Steve Novak
There are few places that can satisfy the vegetarian as well as meat-lover tastes than Aladdin’s Eatery. Fady and Sally Chamoun’s first Lebanese-American restaurant opened in Lakewood in 1994 has blossomed into more than two dozen locations in five states and, fortunately for us on the west shore, there’s one right at Crocker Park.

The lightly stained wood tables and chairs gives an inviting feeling along with ceiling-hung oval light sheers that nicely mute the track lighting. The mirrored wall above the cushioned bench seating gives a larger feel to this quaint establishment.
Now let’s roll into the menu.
The V-Nine Soup ($3.45) is something not to miss. This delicious tomato and veggie-based soup has vegetables so huge, they give a new name to CHUNKY.
There’s nothing like a little Hummos ($5.95) to get a meal started. A pureed blend of chickpeas, tahini and lemon and garnished with sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil, parsley and served with pita.
Loving a good salad I had to try the Lamb Salad ($11.95). It’s a crispy bed of mixed greens with tomatoes, cucumbers, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, scallions, and then topped with cubes of marinated grilled lamb and served with your choice of dressing. It’s a really superb meal.
Speaking of dressing, Aladdin’s dedicates a whole page of their menu just to describe their homemade dressings in detail, a nice touch for the curious diner.
The Chicken Dijon Rolled Pita ($5.75) is a favorite of my wife. Tender marinated char-grilled chicken with tomatoes, onions and honey Dijon dressing all rolled up in a lightly toasted pita. The thought of it makes me want to run out and get one.
We always order the Mujadara Plate ($9.75), a bed of steamed lentils and brown rice topped with Lebanese Salata and finished with thinly sliced fried onions. It’s a wonderful blend of flavors. We usually order it so everyone can have a share. Aladdin's Lebanese Salata (salad) is a delicious blend of chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, scallions, onions and parsley mixed with olive oil, lemon and herbs. You’ll find it on many dishes.
Shish Kabob Plate ($12.95) is char-grilled lean beef tenderloin served with seasoned white rice and vermicelli and topped with pine nuts, almonds and just a hint of cinnamon. Served with either garlic sauce or tahini yogurt.
I just hit the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the extensive menu. Pita Pitza, Salad Pockets and many other items leave you wondering what to order.
Fresh Fruit Smoothies, Fresh Squeezed Juices and Fresh Brewed Teas will make your drink choice a little bit difficult. Oh, and did I mention that they're fresh?
I don’t think anything can tempt you more than Aladdin’s desserts. From gourmet cakes, cheesecakes, baklava, cookies and dessert bars there is something for every sweet tooth. The worst thing is that you have to pass by the dessert case as you walk in to be seated, not fair!
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the menu, the service staff is very friendly and knowledgeable, but most items are very well defined.
In closing, it’s wonderful to see the success of a local family-owned business grow throughout the state of Ohio and into neighboring states.
Rating: four stars out of four.
Aladdin’s Eatery; 151 Crocker Park Blvd., Westlake; 440-617-9005;

Steve Novak
Steve Novak is a Westlake resident and 34-year veteran in the restaurant industry, working at all levels from dishwasher to manager to chef/owner. If you'd like Steve to review your restaurant, contact us at 216.672.6292

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Moosehead Saloon

Moosehead Saloon's atmosphere keeps you coming back
by Steve Novak
The historic landmark building that sits on Dover Center Road in Westlake right before you head over the railroad tracks to Bay Village houses a restaurant that can boast an inviting atmosphere inside as well as out.
As you enter the front door, the warm, rustic moose lodge finish makes you feel right at home. Booths and tables dress the left side of the restaurant while a long straight bar runs down the opposite side.
A beautiful mural draws your eyes to the back wall giving you a vision of what the building might have looked like in the early part of the past century.
Once you sit down, just look to the table stand to grab a menu. The core menu, along with seasonal and “other stuff' menus, requires you to take your time looking everything over.
The Jumbo Chicken Wings ($9.99) are a great way to get started. The baker’s dozen – that’s 13 for those at home – are wonderfully crispy and dressed with just the right amount of sauce, four to choose from.
For you seafood lovers, go with the Crispy Calamari ($9.99) or Buffalo Calamari ($10.99). Both are lightly fried golden brown and served over hand-cut chips. Also served with marinara and cocktail sauce or tossed in Buffalo sauce with crumbled bleu cheese. Personally I would go with the Buffalo style, wow!
If you don’t usually think that an entrée salad is filling enough, Moosehead will change your mind. Try the Taco Salad (Chicken, Beef or Turkey, $9.99; Steak $11.99). An edible fried tortilla bowl is filled with fresh greens, olives, jalapeños, cheese and topped with your meat choice. The tastiness is never-ending.
When it comes to sandwiches, the selections are numerous and all tempting. Mozzarella Madness ($10.49) starts with fried mozzarella patties, fresh greens, tomatoes and a creamy pesto mayo on French bread. Oh, and please choose chicken, roast beef or veggies to finish off this tasty sandwich.
Grouper Fingers (market price) seasoned and lightly fried just enhances the flakiness of the fish, served with fresh-cut French fries and special slaw. Nothing is better than grouper to take my mind on a quick trip to Florida.
Now let's get your hands dirty. A full slab of Baby Back Ribs ($19.99) is coated with a nice tangy BBQ sauce and served with cole slaw and grilled toast, so belly up to the bones. Don’t worry, they supply plenty of napkins and wet-naps to keep you clean.
Don’t overlook the Yellow Fin Lake Erie Perch entrée (market price) at the bottom of the appetizer section. Fried golden brown to perfection served with fries, pierogi and cole slaw, bring your appetite for this one. Perch seems to disappear from most restaurants once the weather cools, but not at the Moosehead Saloon where it’s a year-round standard.
A few of the items above came with a side dish that I intentionally neglected to mention just because it needed its own paragraph: Hand-cut Potato Chips. They may seem to be a simple side dish, but they always come out nicely warm, crisp as can be, seasoned just right and served with a homemade French onion-style dip that makes it so delicious it can become an addiction. So much so that we’ll order a basket just to get the meal started.
The service staff whose faces are familiar give good and adequate service.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the seasonal patio. A Westlake In Bloom winner on countless occasions, the Moosehead Saloon’s patio is second to none on the Westside of Cleveland. Its cascading waters down glass partitions, beautiful planting, gas-fired log fireplace and outdoor ventilation system is no longer the best kept secret on the Westside, much to the chagrin to those of us who discovered it early on.
Putting it all together, the Moosehead Saloon has become a regular stomping ground for anyone looking for a lunch or dinner destination.
Moosehead Saloon, 694 Dover Center Rd., Westlake; 440-871-7742
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-midnight; Sunday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Prices: Soups, Salads, Appetizers, $3.49-$15.99; Burgers & Sandwiches, $8.49-$14.49; Entrees, $11.49-$20.99 (some items are at market price); Desserts, $4.99-$8.99
Reservations: No; call ahead seating available
Credit Cards: All Major
Cuisine: American
Kids Menu: Yes
Bar Service: Full
Accessibility: No
Grade: 3 Stars
Rating: 1 Star, Fair; 2 Stars, Good; 3 Stars, Very Good; 4 Stars, Excellent

Steve Novak
Steve Novak is a Westlake resident and 34-year veteran in the restaurant industry, working at all levels from dishwasher to manager to chef/owner. If you'd like Steve to review your restaurant, contact us at 216.672.6292

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Favorite Pizza Shop

Antonio's Pizza and Spaghetti
Everyone has a favorite pizza shop, this is mine.  I’ve been eating Antonio’s pizza since I was a teenager (long time).  Drew Carey seems to share my view of this incredible restaurant. He ordered 45 pizzas for The Price is Right party in L.A. Their pizzas are cooked in a slow burning oven, giving them a unique flavor and texture unlike any other pizza.  Antonio’s in Parmatown shopping center is run by the 3rd generation of the LoShiavio family.  Their menu offers a family tradition of fresh homemade delights.  You’ll find fresh pasta, tender veal, succulent chicken, assorted seafood, hearty sandwiches as well as another favorite, New Orleans Muffeletta.  Most people don’t get very excited about salads, but I have to tell you I will go out of my way for their Antonio’s special salad.  Crisp pepperoni and provolone cheese on a bed of fresh lettuce served with their homemade Poppy seed dressing is a must.  The best part is they sell their homemade dressings by the bottle.  If you need some privacy for a bridal shower or business meeting, they offer a separate dining room that seats 75 with a full bar.  If you’re planning an event, Antonio’s can come to you with outside catering and the same homemade deliciousness served in their restaurant.

7401 West Ridgewood Dr. 
Parma, OH 44129

Phone: 440-886-2511


Business Hours:

Monday 4:00pm to 10:00pm
Tuesday – Thursday 11:00am to 10:00pm
Friday and Saturday 11:00am to 11:00pm
Sunday 12:00pm to 9:00pm
Lunch is served Tuesday through Saturday 11:00am to 3:00pm.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Northeast Ohio Treasure

If you’re not from this part of Ohio, let me introduce you to Mr. Hero, a favorite of Northeast Ohio residents for over 45 years.  They serve one of my all time favorite sandwiches, the Romanburger!  Their signature Romanburger is unlike any other sandwich.  Made fresh to order and packed into a fresh Orlando roll, they start with juicy beef patties, Italian deli meats, melted Swiss and American cheese, fresh vegetables and topped off with Mr. Hero’s own mayonnaise and dressing.  With 85 locations in Northeast Ohio, chances are there’s one by you (mine is conveniently two blocks away).  Check out their store locator to see if there’s one near you. Although known for their Romanburger, their hot buttered cheesesteak sandwich, Tuscan steak and their chicken Philly are fan favorites.  Here is a link to their website.  Check out their menu and you’ll find chicken wraps, sides like beer battered cheesy bites and cheesecake for dessert.  The large variety of actual sandwiches gives way to a one of a kind customer favorite, potato waffer fries!  I follow them on Facebook to enter contests and get email notifications.  When my children visit from out of town, Mr. Hero is the first stop on their agenda.  In fact, it’s usually the last stop as well for a Romaburger to take home.  I’m glad I grew up in Mr. Hero’s hometown.

Mr. Hero

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

When it comes to traditional deli cuisine, Corky & Lenny’s serves some of the best you can find.  I seldom go to the eastside of Cleveland without stopping in for one of their “New Yorker” sandwiches (corned beef piled high with homemade coleslaw and Thousand Island dressing). Rarely can I finish the whole sandwich, but it is a pure pleasure trying.  I have been a Corky & Lenny’s fan for several decades and plan to be for several more.  Their Matzoh Ball soup is beyond good, it’s an experience you have to have for yourself.  If there is one thing that impresses me about Corky & Lenny’s is their consistency… their food consistently outstanding.  They have a huge deli counter filled with meats, cheeses, pickles and breads so you can order by the pound to enjoy on the go.  If you have any type of event, party, engagement or meeting coming up, they have a tray that will be perfect for it.  They offer an assorted sandwich platter, cubed cheese tray arranged with garnish and served with crackers, fresh vegetable platter accompanied by onion or spinach dip, assorted freshly baked bagel tray with your favorite condiments, homemade cheesecake with four different toppings and more.  Here is a link to their website that shows a picture of all their famous homemade trays.  They can even cater your next event and deliver right to your door.  From their homemade pickles to their friendly wait staff, you’ll want to go back and experience all they have to offer for decades to come.  Check out their menu and experience for yourself why their customers have been coming back for over 55 years.

27091 Chagrin Boulevard
Woodmere Village, Ohio 44122 

Phone - 216.464.3838
Fax - 216.464.1622
Toll Free - 877.858.3838

Hours of Operation:
Sun - Thur  7am - 9:30pm
Fri - Sat  7am - 11:00pm