Jimmy Fallon loves Sokolowski's University Inn.
The late night television host made a surprise visit to the restaurant yesterday evening after wrapping up a promotional gig in Cleveland with an NBC affiliate.
"It was just before we opened yesterday," co-owner Bernie Sokolowski told Scene. "A car pulled up and some people where waiting outside. We offered for them to come in to get out of the cold. It turned out to be Jimmy Fallon, his sister, and some NBC folks." He's pretty much the last person you think you would see, Sokolowski added.
When asked why he'd chosen University Inn, Fallon said that Michael Symon told him if he was ever in Cleveland to stop by Sokolowski's (thatta boy, Chef Symon!).
After a restaurant tour, in which he pointed out the famous Bill Clinton table and joked he wanted a Fallon table, the TV host talked to customers and posed for some quick pics before being sent home with the largest doggie bag ever.
"We packed up a bunch of our classics," Sokolowski said. "...stuffed cabbage, potato pancakes, periogies, potato soup, kielbasi and sauerkraut" to take back on his jet to New York City.
Fallon then posted this to Twitter:
Sokolowski's University Inn - D E L I C I O U S! #Cleveland http://t.co/5qWuW1xqDf
— jimmy fallon (@jimmyfallon) November 22, 2013
Myxx, a short-lived restaurant in the Cedar-Fairmount neighborhood of Cleveland Heights that had the unfortunate tagline "Dine, Drink and Degage," closed in late 2012 after the city declared it a public nuisance.
Since then, residents wondered what would replace it considering that the space, previously a Jillian's Billiard Club for 20 years, was roughly 10,000 square feet. Well, we have our answer. Come spring, the space will welcome a Buffalo Wild Wings.
Richard Andrews, owner of BW3 spots in Lyndhurst, Bainbridge and Sandusky, has already commenced work on the space, which will use just 6,000 square feet of the space. No tenant has claimed the remaining 4,000 square feet. A large bar will sit on the western half of the space, while the eastern half will be dedicated to the kitchen and dining room. A new rear patio will be enclosed and heated in the winter and opened up in summer.
"I love the neighborhood aspect of the location and the proximity to Case, UH and Cleveland Clinic," Andrews explains. "The Cedar-Fairmount district is an active, vibrant area."
BW3 started with one bar near the campus of Ohio State University back in 1982 and has since grown to more than 900 locations.
"Beer, wings and sports are the three key words for us," Andrews adds. The menu also offers starters, flatbreads, sandwiches and burgers.
An all new draft system will supply 30 domestics and crafts on tap, with another 40 or more by the bottle. TVs and tabletop tablets will allow guests to control music selections or play trivia or other games.
Look for a March or April opening.
We told you that we honestly couldn't think of anywhere we'd rather spend a Thursday night than at Reddstone, eating at drinking at this year's Kentucky Beer Dinner- turns out, last night's meal was even better than we expected.
The smattering of samples began rolling in around 7:30 p.m. and continued until well after 9:30 p.m.
Our favorites? The Kentucky IPA and Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale ranked high on our list, as did the candied bourbon chicken wings and Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Stout brownie.
If you're bummed you missed out, here are some photos for you to peruse, plus you can find Kentucky Ale at Giant Eagle, Heinen's, and many major retailers here in Cleveland.
Here's What You Missed at Last Night's Kentucky Beer Dinner at Reddstone
Ohio City's TownHall and NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown are joining forces this Thanksgiving to help feed the hungry.
TownHall and Amer-I-Can, a national program and movement founded by Brown, will provide thousands of turkey dinners on Tuesday, Nov. 26 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for Clevelanders needing a little extra help this holiday season.
Also on hand at this year's "Feed the Need" event will be Cleveland Browns running back Willis McGahee, former Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith, and possibly Mayor Frank Jackson and Councilman Joe Cimperman.
For more information on the event, and on Brown's organization, visit Amer-I-Can.org
In what can only be described as The Best News Ever, Happy Dog partners Eric Williams, Sean Kilbane and Sean Watterson will open an eastside version of their popular bar and restaurant in a space that rivals the original in terms of historic appeal: the Euclid Tavern.
"What I love about the space is that it's not all big box and shiny-new," Williams explains. "The Euclid Tavern is lived-in — it's got some history and life to it."
The Euclid Tavern closed last spring after more than 100 years of on-again, off-again operation. The historic University Circle club with the iconic neon blade sign has been host to countless local, regional and national acts. Live music scenes in the 1987 film "Light of Day" with Michael J. Fox and Joan Jett were filmed there in front of local crowds.
Formally announced on Thursday at University Circle Inc.'s annual meeting, the news is just one more way leaders in that neighborhood are actively trying to create what UCI president Chris Ronayne calls a "complete neighborhood" — one where everything a resident might need or want is within a 20-minute walk.
"We've had an intentional effort to bring back Euclid Avenue over the past five years, diligently trying to reclaim the Main Street," Ronanye told Scene. "The Euc is an icon to Cleveland, an icon to the music scene, and it's an icon to Euclid Avenue. When you marry up the icon of the Euclid Tavern with the new icon of the Happy Dog, you have a winner."
Ronanye added that his organization actively pursued the owners of Happy Dog to fill that spot, adding that those behind the project understand the historic importance of one of Cleveland's oldest bars. Williams, for his part, is honored to be a part of this legendary club's story.
"Obviously, we're business people who want to grow our brand and make money," says Williams. "But we also want to be part of the revitalization of Cleveland and save some of that great history. I love that there are so many people who say, 'I remember going to the Euclid Tavern for this show or that.'"
That towering, classic sign must stay put, all agree.
"We would love to somehow keep — and University Circle would want us to keep — the name Euclid Tavern because of its historic and neighborhood value," Williams adds. "It's a great sign, and we hope to keep it. We're thinking something along the lines of Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern."
After getting the keys on December 1, Williams says that job one will involve a lot of elbow grease, cleaning and reorganization of the space.
"It's a total shithole," he admits. "This is probably one of the worst spots I've taken over. It's really bad."
When all is said and done, Happy Dog East will function much like its west-side sibling, with hot dogs, veggie dogs, fries and tots. A new 40-tap beer system will keep the craft beer flowing.
As for the music and entertainment, Williams says that the location in Cleveland's cultural epicenter allows him and his partners to program events in a new and exciting way.
"We can do more diverse music and entertainment projects here," he says. "We think the location lends itself to a more world music stage."
The stage, forever centered in the second room, will be moved to the front of the building. The team is bringing in the "sound guy from the Black Keys" to completely redo the sound system. A back room will be turned into a second dining room and arcade with games like shuffleboard and classic pinball machines. A basement room with a smaller bar will be used as a "green room/party room/overflow dining/speakeasy," according to Williams.
Given the neighborhood, lunch service might be added down the road.
As for how soon we can expect to wrap our hands around an east-side happy hot dog, Williams says: "If we can open by March 1, we will. If we can open February 1, we will."
It happens every Thanksgiving; someone in your family murders an already lifeless turkey. The tragedy gets blamed on poor clock management, a finicky oven, or maybe an untested technique from Rachael Ray that sounded (and, apparently, was) too good to be true. The excuses start to sound like a Browns post-game media session with Brandon Weedon as the metaphorical turkey. How did it all go so wrong? The devil was in the details.
I have a confession to make: I hate turkey. For this glutton, the bird is far and away the worst part of the holiday meal. Be it brined, stuffed, roasted, deep-fried or smoked — I haven’t had a satisfying bite of a Butterball in the 20-plus Thanksgivings I have under my ever-loosening belt. It's no mystery why. Once a year home cooks decide to take on a cumbersome, challenging task that even seasoned chefs often struggle with. Throw in the added stress of holiday entertaining and you are only setting yourself up for failure, which in this case is dry, bland fowl.
Fortunately, there are the side dishes. While merely the supporting cast for the entire production, good sides can steal the show and while improving the taste of that desiccated bird.
Let’s start with the two best friends a humdrum turkey could ask for — his wing men, if you will: mashed potatoes and gravy. Wonderful mashed potatoes start with Yukon Golds not Russets. When cooked properly, Yukons provide a rich, buttery flavor and creamy texture. Make sure to use plenty of heavy cream (leave the diet food for the rest of the year) and unsalted butter (we prefer to do the seasoning) in your preparation. The addition of chopped fresh herbs like parsley or chives — maybe some roasted garlic or prepared horseradish — will elevate the mashers to even greater heights.
Gravy is another one of those crucial elements that can go horribly wrong, yet is surprisingly easy to perfect. Start with turkey stock made from the bits and pieces that come with the bird if possible, but if that's not an option, then a low-sodium chicken stock will do just fine. Your basic flavorful, smooth gravy starts with a roux (equal parts flour and butter cooked together), which is whisked into the warm stock until the lumps are dissolved and the sauce glistens and thickens. Season the gravy with salt and fresh-ground pepper, add some fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme or sage. Easy as pumpkin pie.
And, as Jerry Seinfeld might say, what's the deal with canned cranberry sauce? No wonder everybody passes on the stuff until it melts into a sad pile of magenta, and even then only gets poked at with a tentative spoon. Allow me to introduce you to cranberry chutney, a chunky sauce with deep flavor that can stand on its own or save even the most arid of birds. The preparation is foolproof — basically throw all the ingredients into a pot and cook them down — and the resulting sauce is a game-changer.
Brussels sprouts are a love-it or hate-it vegetable — that we know. But make it right and you'll definitely move some guests from one camp to the other. They're practically built to pair with pork — be it bacon or pancetta — and they're actually in season, so you can find them locally. Start by blanching the sprouts in boiling, salted water until just barely tender. Shock them in an ice bath, then dry and quarter them. Render some bacon or pancetta in a large sauté pan and toss in the sprouts. Caramelize over medium-high heat, being careful not to burn them, and season with salt and fresh-ground pepper. This dish is sure to convert non-sprout eaters into believers and leave them fighting over the last green bits.
This year, resolve to try something new in the kitchen — just don’t take any uncalculated risks with the bird, it's sacred. Have fun shopping for local, seasonal ingredients and then find recipes built around them. Root vegetables are in season and never go out of style. Maybe give real (not canned, or candied) sweet potatoes at try.
Most of all, relax in the kitchen, keep it simple and enjoy the time with your family and friends. If all else fails, keep plenty of Christmas Ale on hand.
For what seems like an eternity, Barb Collier has been the chief restaurant reviewer for the Sun Press edition of the Sun News newspaper, which serves the east side communities of Beachwood, Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights and University Heights. Her time-honored and conventional approach to the craft found her lunching or brunching (Collier avoided after-hours meals) at some of suburban Cleveland's finest taverns.
In recent weeks, however, guided perhaps by revenue-conscious higher-ups, Collier has been feeding her faithful readers with a steady diet of bland chain restaurants. There was the review of Honey Baked Ham ("Stopping in the Solon store for a ham bone for soup, I learned the store also had a cafe where you can also get sandwiches, salads and numerous sides."), Bahama Breeze ("There aren't many restaurants, especially in this area, that can capture the flavors and the spirit of the Caribbean Islands. One that comes close is Bahama Breeze Island Grille in Orange Village."), and Benihana ("If you’ve never visited a Japanese restaurant that specializes in hibachi cooking over a teppan table, with a specially trained chef doing the preparation in front of you, you are in for awesome entertainment along with some laughs.").
But without question it was her recent review of the Cheesecake Factory that garnered the most buzz, both locally and nationally. When Slate caught wind of Collier's review of the mega-chain — especially in the immediate wake of the massive lay-offs at the Plain Dealer — the online magazine had a little fun at Collier's expense.
"Review of the Cheesecake Factory Reveals the Sorry State of American Newspapers," the Slate article was titled. In the piece, the Pee Dee's Robert L. Smith was quoted declaring that "the company would marshal its resources to deliver a quality product in the digital age."
"How’s that product looking?," Slate asked rhetorically. "On Thursday the Cleveland.com website — which is 'powered by' the Plain Dealer and the Sun News community newspapers — ran a review of the Cheesecake Factory. According to writer Barbara Collier, the chain restaurant’s menu is '22 colorful pages long and almost mind-boggling, with one choice sounding better than the next.'"
Well, Cleveland, you won't have Barb Collier to kick around anymore as she has been replaced by food blogger Michelle Venorsky (aka Cleveland Foodie), whose review of Mi Pueblo hits newsstands today. Sources say that Collier and her long-time employer Sun have parted ways (bosses at Sun and the Pee Dee refuse to comment on "personnel matters").
Collier matters aside, incoming "Scoop du Jour" writer Venorsky is just thrilled to get busy eating and writing. "I'm super appreciative to Joe [Crea] for thinking enough of me to ask me to play a small part — and even more so, excited to learn from him," she says. "Food is ridiculously subjective with no right or wrong answer. It will be so fun to share my two cents to the fantastic conversation that is already happening. If you have a healthy appetite, there's no better town to be in!"
No disagreement from us.