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Best Buns 

The Bill may have changed, but there's plenty of dough.

Other than the improvements, you're not likely to notice much difference between Lakewood's former Barnacle Bill's Crab House and the Pickle Bill's Lobster House that opened this winter in the same location (14810 Detroit Avenue, 216-521-CRAB.)

This makes the second Pickle Bill's outpost for owner Jerry Powell; his other one originally opened in the Flats in the 1970s and moved to its current Grand River digs in 1982. But strangely enough, when Barnacle Bill's opened in Lakewood in 1990, its design -- from the quirky nautical decor to its menu of seafood and "all-you-can-eat" crab legs, walleye, and ribs -- seemed to be lifted directly from Powell's playbook. Powell's managers claim ignorance, and Powell himself is wintering in Florida, so we can't be sure that the similarities weren't entirely coincidental. However, one source has suggested that Powell actually helped Barnacle Bill's owner, Tom Brodnick, model the new place after Powell's own restaurant.

In any case, when Brodnick decided to call it quits last year, Powell jumped at the opportunity to establish a West Side location. Nearly three months of renovating and redecorating followed, and now the spot is as colorful as a carnival and as laid-back as Jimmy Buffett's dreams.

Still, you can't improve on perfection, and one of the things that hasn't been tampered with is the restaurant's signature breadbasket, filled with bite-sized buns of fresh-from-the-fryer dough and a tub of cinnamon-honey butter. The former Barnacle Buns, now modestly described on the menu as "our famous fried dough," are as fiendishly addictive as ever.

Stix to your ribs . . . In yet another stunning example of mankind's unstoppable urge to turn wholesome foods into sugar-laden noshes, entrepreneurs Mark Kuperman and Anthony Dellamano have come up with the inspired notion of slicing fresh, tart Ohio apples into "stix," battering and frying them, then tossing them in a secret blend of sugar and spices, before serving them with a choice of caramel, chocolate, lemon cheesecake, peanut butter, or vanilla dipping sauces. The duo's culinary creation, Johnny Applestix, made its world debut at Jacobs Field this week, in the Level One concession area behind home plate. But did the boys (former Californians, now transplanted to Ohio by way of New York's Cornell University) stop there? Hell, no! In a final act of chutzpah, Kuperman and Dellamano pushed the nutritional envelope just a little bit harder. The result? The Super -- those very same fried-apple sticks, now topped with frozen custard! Are these guys gods, or what?

A second Johnny Applestix location opens at Parmatown Mall this summer.

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