Bites

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Bigmouth Donut Co. Plants Flag at Hub 55 with Production Kitchen, Retail

Posted By on Wed, Dec 13, 2017 at 10:11 AM

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Even as partners Courtney Bonning and Kelly Brewer were gearing up to open their Bigmouth Donut Co. shop in the Hingetown area of Ohio City (1418 W. 29th St.), they knew it wasn’t going to be the perfect fit. Not only would the wee 650-square-foot space require a new kitchen, it would never support the kind of business and expansion the partners envisioned. Still, they soldiered on.

“Our equipment supplier said the buildout would be like fitting a marshmallow into a piggybank,” Bonning joked.

The plan was to make do with the Ohio City location by squeezing both a kitchen and retail storefront into the same small footprint. When the opportunity to move into a larger production facility arose, they would jump on it. Fortunately for them, that opportunity happened to present itself before the heavy construction began, Bonning explains.

“We could have built a production kitchen [in Ohio City], but in the end we would have been stumbling all over ourselves and would have regretted that we couldn’t do everything we wanted from a production standpoint,” she says. “Part of our business plan was always to scale up and have multiple locations around the greater Cleveland area, so it was always part of the plan to put in a larger kitchen somewhere. We just ended up scaling up way sooner than we had anticipated.”

That space will be at Hub 55, the mixed-use facility at St. Clair and E. 55th that includes Goldhorn Brewery, Café 55, and Sterle’s Slovenian House. Bigmouth will move into the space formerly occupied by Café 55, which quietly closed its doors three weeks ago. Bonning and Brewer are leasing the space from Hub 55 owner Rick Semersky. In addition to serving as a large centralized production kitchen, the space will function as a retail donut shop while providing hot savory food for Goldhorn customers.

The goal is to have all three components – the production kitchen and both retail outlets – up and running within four months.

“Having more production space is a great benefit, but one of the goals always was to create a destination donut shop – a place that people would put on their ‘must-see’ list when experiencing Ohio City with family and friends,” Brewer says. “Having more space in Hingetown for our storefront allows us to do that.”

Customers at either location can look forward to a dozen different flavors per day, a roster that will shift with the seasons. Cake and yeast varieties like pistachio or almond and honeycomb might be considered subtle compared to many of the wilder creations that are in vogue right now, notes Bonning.

“We’re not trying to be super-hipster,” she explains. “We want it to feel comfortable for everyone, so we’re just giving people very down-home products that they would associate with donuts. It’s not about a million sprinkles and all the crazy colors and sugar products. We just want you to appreciate them like any other pastry product you would get.”

Bonning says that come spring, the partners will strongly consider operating the Hingetown spot as a 24-hour concern.

“It makes sense because that area is activated almost all the time, from 5 in the morning with Harness Cycle and Title Boxing to 2:30 in the morning when Jukebox closes,” she says. “There’s always somebody around.”

Already this year, Clevelanders have welcomed the arrival of City Girl Donuts out in Rocky River and Brewnuts in Detroit Shoreway. Does Bonning think there’s still room for more?

“Look at all the bars that exist; look at all the taco joints just in Lakewood,” she scoffs. “Everybody eats every day.”
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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

CHA Spirits and Pizza Will Reopen in New Ohio City Location on Dec. 18

Posted By on Tue, Dec 12, 2017 at 2:25 PM

EMANUEL WALLACE
  • Emanuel Wallace
CHA Spirits and Kitchen will debut in its new home in Ohio City, at 3800 Whitman Ave. in the space most recently occupied by the shuttered Pasta and Pastries, on Dec. 18. The move comes after an announcement this summer that CHA would close up shop in Battery Park and relocate a few miles down the road.

Fans of CHA who loved their pizzas and more can look forward to more of the same, albeit with a menu that will include more pastas and a more seasonally focused roster of small plates.

"We have a huge base is Ohio City and Hingetown, so it makes sense to move back home," owner Susan Walters, a longtime resident of the neighborhood who once ran a Spanish restaurant called KeKe there, told Cleveland.com. "Everything's going to be much more creative and much more local. We're just really excited to see everyone again."

***

(Original story 8/21/2017): Three years ago CHA Spirits & Pizza Kitchen took over the space previously occupied by the Battery Park Wine Bar. The pizza joint and bar run by Susan Walters, whose nickname (Cha-Cha) gave birth to the restaurant's moniker, will now itself give way to something else as it closes up shop in Battery Park this Sunday, August 27. That gives CHA fans a few more days to grab a pie but if you can't make it by this weekend rest assured you're not totally out of luck: CHA announced Saturday on Facebook that it will be reopening in a brand new but as of yet undisclosed location in Ohio City, where Walters once ran KeKe, in October. We'll keep you updated when a firm location is announced.



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Black Box Fix Opens Tomorrow at Legacy Village

Posted By on Tue, Dec 12, 2017 at 11:39 AM

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There appears to be no stopping Eric Rogers. The passionate chef parlayed a fast-casual sandwich concept in Cleveland Heights called Black Box Fix into a mini-empire that shows little sign of slowing down.

When a larger space became available down the block, Rogers moved and expanded his popular sandwich concept into a full-service restaurant called The Fix Bistro (2195 Lee Rd.), which melds Soul and Cajun style flavors into one happy menu. In the original spot, he opened Sweet Fix (2307 Lee Rd.), a neighborhood bakery, with a partner. Next up for Rogers was Fawaky Fix (2234 Lee Rd.), a partnership with the owner of Fawaky Burst Juice that offers cold-pressed and blended juices, salads, rice bowls, wraps and paninis.

Tomorrow, Rogers will reprise the popular Black Box Fix concept at Legacy Village (25359 Cedar Rd.). When it opens at noon, the fast-casual restaurant will offer a menu that fans of the original concept will instantly recognize. Gut-busting sandwiches like the OMG Philly (a hoagie-style bun filled with sautéed shrimp, grilled chicken, mushrooms, onions, peppers and "yum-yum" sauce) and the Railroader (fried chicken, smoked gouda and sautéed mushrooms on toasted brioche) join new items like turkey burgers.

Rogers worked tirelessly to transform a former yogurt shop into a sleek little café, he says, that fits into its surroundings.

“It’s an elegant, beautiful space that really fits Legacy,” Rogers says.

The fast-casual lunch and dinner spot has 18 seats for diners who elect to eat in, but all food is presented in the eponymous shiny black take-out boxes. If it’s at all like the original shop, newcomers should expect efficient, friendly customer service.

For a guy who started cooking at the age of 13, the move to Legacy feels especially sweet to Rogers.

"They called us, and that was something that made us very proud, being one of the first black-owned businesses to go in Legacy Village," he says. "It's a whole different market, and we have to prove ourselves, but I think it's a model that crosses cultural borders."
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Monday, December 11, 2017

Be Sure to Get Your Tickets to Scene's Flavor Event, Happening This Thursday Evening

Posted By on Mon, Dec 11, 2017 at 11:44 AM

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There are only a couple of days left before Flavor, Scene's annual dining event, happening this Thursday evening from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum at the Western Reserve Historical Society. Tickets are just $40 in advance ($55 day of) and get you unlimited food from 30+ restaurants and vendors (full list below), as well as six drink tickets for beer, wine or cocktails.

Entertainment includes the third annual Iron Fork competition featuring returning champion Chef Nelly Buleje (Adega) squaring up against Chef Ken Hatfield (Hatfield's Goode Grub) and Chef Eric Wells (Skye LaRae's). Judging the prestigious affair will be Anthony Lima (92.3 The Fan), Will Hollingsworth (The Spotted Owl) and Anna Houravis (Anna in the Raw).

Guests will also enjoy the Crawford museum, which boasts some 140 antique cars, the Euclid Beach Carousel and music provided by I Am Yulissa.

This year's Flavor will be benefitting the non-profit Kids Kicking Cancer. They offer a series of programs focused on leading a healthy active lifestyle. Programs include athletic sports clinics in a variety of sports (soccer, basketball, golf, swimming and more), as well as cooking and nutrition clinics. Participants have the opportunity to learn new skills, to gain confidence, to feel like they belong and to make new friends. Programs are provided at no cost to the participant or their family.

Vendors and Restaurants:
Adega
Agostino's/ Sushi Rock
Astoria Cafe + Market
Barabicu Smokehouse
Barrio
Bistro 185
Bubba Q's
Bywater Tavern
D&D Catering
Geraci's
Greek Village
Grumpy's Cafe
Hatfield's Goode Grub
Heck's Cafe
Maha's Falafil
Matteo's Casual Italian
Nuevo Modern Mexican
Parker's Downtown
Pierre's Ice Cream
Raw Trainer
Skye La Rae's
The Fairmount
Ty Fun
Warren's Spirited Kitchen
Yard House
Yuzu
Sky Mediterranean
Artbox
CLEseats
The Menyu App
Lula Roe
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Friday, December 8, 2017

Cleveland Whiskey to Host a Special Holiday Open House Tomorrow

Posted By on Fri, Dec 8, 2017 at 4:24 PM

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Hansa Brewery will be on site tomorrow from noon to 4 p.m. at Cleveland Whiskey to offer tastings of its newly brewed Merry Christmas Ya Filthy Animal bourbon-barrel aged stout as well as its Oktoberfest bier.

The occasion? It's Cleveland Whiskey's special holiday open house.

The limited barrel release will only be available at the distillery while supplies last.

Continue reading »

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Cleveland Couple Behind 'Ice or Rice' Makes the How, and Why, of Asian Cooking Easier

Posted By on Fri, Dec 8, 2017 at 11:43 AM

PHOTO VIA ICEORRICE/INSTAGRAM
  • Photo via iceorrice/Instagram
During this summer's Night Market Cleveland events, the line for the Ice or Rice booth was often the longest. The stand, manned by husband and wife Andy and Jessie Ng, served treats like Japanese cabbage pancakes, Malaysian peanut coconut chicken, rice balls, bubble tea and soufflé cheesecake. For those dishes, attendees didn't mind a 15 or 20 minute wait, partly because Night Market was the only place to score Ice or Rice's food.

It isn't a traditional restaurant, or even food truck. While Andy and Jessie are a fixture at the summertime festivals, their foodie foray is mainly based online — at the couple's YouTube channel and website — where they dish up how-tos on Asian dishes like ramen and Japanese bread, breaking recipes down into simple steps showing viewers not only how but why.

On a recent Sunday morning, in their eastside Cleveland home kitchen, Andy is whipping up a Hawaiian poke rice bowl with fresh, high-quality tuna and whole bean soy sauce. This is where they film the videos and concoct their own recipes.

"We try to make food that a typical Asian household would eat," Andy says of the Ice or Rice concept. "Whenever we travel, we like to try what is local, find those small hole-in-the-wall shops. We try to find the most authentic dishes. A lot of the things around Cleveland are very much geared toward the audience. For a long time you couldn't find ramen."

Jessie, who makes most of the Chinese and Japanese dishes, says she likes to make videos for recipes that are harder to find in America. So not General Tso's chicken.

"Most of the time, it's stuff I love to eat first," she says. "I try to find a sweet spot between what people would like to make at home, but that I'm interested in too."

Andy, who grew up helping his parents in various Cleveland restaurants, started cooking for his co-workers a few years ago making Asian cuisine for lunches, things that people may not have tried before. When the Night Market in AsiaTown started up, he decided to apply.

Jessie and Andy Ng addressing their YouTube viewers.
  • Jessie and Andy Ng addressing their YouTube viewers.
"I told him, 'But we're not professional cooks,'" Jessie recalls.

The first event was tough, trying to keep up with demand. But, Jessie says, she had fun.

Jessie, who immigrated from China back in 2004 to marry Andy, admits she didn't like cooking before starting Ice or Rice; it was just something she did to feed her family. But through making the videos, her interest grew.

"I looked at a lot of videos and a lot of times they just show you how they did it, but they don't explain why, and I always wondered why," she says. "I didn't know why my mom did things or why the recipe said that. And when I did the research, I was surprised there wasn't a lot of why."

Once she started researching why certain techniques were used in Asian cooking — to tenderize a meat, or to up a certain flavor — the love of cooking clicked. Now every video the pair makes explains why certain steps are used.

Besides the Night Market, which they've participated in the past three summers, the Ng's also host pop-up food events and Asian grocery store tours. Andy, a civil engineer, and Jessie, a freelance graphic designer (those adorable animated graphics in the videos are all her) say they like the freedom that not owning a full-time restaurant allows. They can experiment with new dishes and not be confined to meeting a bottom line. The plan is to continue with their website, perhaps sell Asian pastries, but nothing that would tie them down.

The Ng's say most of their YouTube channel viewers, which number in the tens of thousands, come from places with higher Asain populations, like New York and California. They have a lot of viewers in Singapore and Malaysia too. But they want to entice Clevelanders as well. That's why they started hosting Asian grocery store tours, so people can try new flavors and not be as intimidated by certain ingredients. The more questions people ask, the better.

When it's just them at home, stir-fry vegetables and quick foods like ramen feed their family. They use a rice cooker daily.

"I want a good meal, I want to cook for family," Jessie says. "I'm a home cook, if I can do it, you can do it."

The next Ice or Rice Asian grocery tour and tasting event is Jan. 8 at Asia Food Co. Purchase $25 tickets here.


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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Cleveland Bagel to Open an East Side Location

Posted By on Wed, Dec 6, 2017 at 12:39 PM

Owner Dan Herbst
  • Owner Dan Herbst
It's been four and a half years since partners Dan Herbst and Geoff Hardman peddled their first homemade bagel at the Gordon Square Farmer's Market. Since then the bagel boys have moved production from Herbst's apartment to Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen to rented space at Ohio City Pasta and finally to their current home, a production facility and retail storefront in Ohio City, which they launched with help from investor Alan Glazen.

Next up for Cleveland Bagel Co. (4201 Detroit Ave., 216-600-5652) is an East Side facility that will closely mirror the one-year-old shop in Ohio City. The new production facility and retail shop will assume roughly 2,800 square feet of a massive 140,000-square-foot warehouse on Carnegie Avenue at E. 77th. That facility also is home to Souper Market and Produce Packaging. A dedicated parking lot will make it easy for busy commuters to stop, shop and roll.

Herbst says that his best estimate for an opening is late spring or early summer.

Business continues to grow at Cleveland Bagel, where it’s not uncommon to see 250 customers on a busy weekday and 550 on a busy Saturday. In addition to the delicious bagels, which are rolled by hand, slowly fermented, proofed, water boiled and baked, the shop continues to add new products. First there was just bagel and schmears. Next up came hot breakfast sandwiches like a bacon, egg and cheese bagel. That was followed up by new toppings like hummus, guacamole and lox, all of which are made in house.

“The menu is simple, but we try to lead with quality,” Herbst says.

Cleveland Bagel employs a staff of 15, who all earn a minimum of $15 an hour plus tips. That roster should more than double when the new shop comes online, notes Herbst.

"We are asking a lot of our employees to show up at four in the morning and be on your feet all day," the owner says. "So paying a living wage goes a long way. If you pay them a decent wage and treat them with respect, you'll get dedication and loyalty."

Having facilities on both sides of town will allow the owners to greatly expand their wholesale business. Down the road, Cleveland Bagel can use additional available space at their new facility to move into the frozen bagel market. Fully baked, sliced and frozen, the bagels toast up to a delicious finished product.

“It’s nice to see business steadily grow and keep growing,” Herbst says. “Everything continues to fall into place as and when we needed them – kitchen opportunities, opportunities to grow, this second place. It keeps coming together at the right times.”

But if you still are holding out hope for a rainbow-colored bagel, Herbst says you can forget it.

“It’s just food dye. Do you normally eat lip gloss?”
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