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Friday, October 22, 2021

Birria Tacos Are a Top-5 Worldwide Food Trend

Posted By on Fri, Oct 22, 2021 at 10:01 AM

Birria tacos - HOLA TACOS FB
  • Hola Tacos FB
  • Birria tacos

Birria tacos aren’t just having a Cleveland moment, they're in the world's top 5 food trends.

Indeed, a new study of social media traffic shows that tacos made with the rustic chile-laden stew rank as the fifth-most-popular food trend in the world right now.

Meal replacement shake company Exante combed through online data to determine which dishes and cuisines were trending around the globe. Birria tacos only finished behind banana bread, focaccia, crème brûlée and keto diet-friendly cloud bread, in respective order.

To glean their results, researchers looked at the number of views on TikTok videos with hashtags mentioning a specific food or cuisine plus the number of Instagram posts using the same hashtag. They also counted up those items' global Google searches between June 2020 and May 2021.

Over the study’s duration, videos featuring the term “birria tacos” were viewed nearly 500 million times on TikTok and featured in 135,214 Instagram posts. The term also reached an annual Google search volume of 11.2 million.

Luckily for us, Cleveland is home to places like Hola Tacos where you can get birria tacos — no global travel required.

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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Anthony Zappola’s Rice Shop Will Open at Van Aken District Next Thursday, October 28

Posted By on Thu, Oct 21, 2021 at 5:08 PM

Food from the Rice Shop. - THE RICE SHOP
  • The Rice Shop
  • Food from the Rice Shop.

Back in May, we shared the news that Anthony Zappola would be reviving his popular Asian-fusion concept the Rice Shop at the Van Aken District. That shop, located in the former Restore juice property (3403 Tuttle Rd.), will open next Thursday, October 28.

Zappola originally launched the business in Las Vegas. He later resurrected it at the Ohio City Galley after relocating to Cleveland but shuttered it nine months later when the demands of running it and Lox, Stock and Brisket in University Heights become too burdensome. He launched it again briefly in the former Lox, Stock and Brisket space after that business moved to Van Aken, but again closed it when he handed over the keys to the space to Chicken Ranch owner Demetrios Atheneos.

“I love the concept and it’s always done good, even at the Galley,” Zappola explains. “It just seems like I’m always looking to find a better location. We’re definitely moving in the right direction. I think this one is going to do really well. I have no problem making changes and I have no problem taking risks.”

The 837-square-foot space features an open kitchen, counter service and seating for about 20 guests. A dramatic design feature comprised of 9,000 wooden chopsticks that jut out from the wall and decrease in length until nearly flush with the surface makes quite the impact.

The deliberately compact menu comprised of only a handful of dishes is nearly unchanged since the Las Vegas days, says the chef. Diners can look forward to flavorful plates of mochiko chicken with kung pao broccoli, steak fried rice with bok choi and yum-yum sauce, BBQ pork belly with honey-mustard kale and the ever-popular Kentucky fried fish with cabbage slaw and hot sauce aioli.

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Update: Immigrant Son Brewery in Lakewood to Open Next Monday, Oct. 25

Posted By on Thu, Oct 21, 2021 at 1:46 PM

  • Photo by Doug Trattner
  • Immigrant Son
Last month, we published a "first look" at Immigrant Son, an ambitious brewery project years in the making. Located in Lakewood’s West End neighborhood, the brewery is just days away from opening. Owner Andrew Revy says that assuming final inspections go as planned, the brewpub will open on Monday, October 25th.

Here's the original story, dated 9-15-2021:


It has been nearly two years since Andrew Revy announced his plans to open Immigrant Son Brewery in Lakewood’s West End neighborhood. During the best of times, opening a brewpub is a complicated endeavor, but attempting to do so in the midst of a pandemic is unimaginably complex.

“The world doesn’t always cooperate,” Revy says. “But it’s a huge relief to see the goal line for sure.”

That goal line is just weeks away, with a projected opening penciled in for late September. For the past two years, Revy and the team at ARC-Form have been working to convert the former Constantino’s Market (and Nature’s Bin) into Lakewood’s first and only brewery. The 9,000-square-foot building proved an ideal foundation from which to build out Immigrant Son, says Revy. Original features like skylights, exposed timber framework, windows and even the grocery’s dairy cooler all were retained.

The shiny 10-barrel brewhouse is visible from the dining room thanks to expansive windows. Brewmaster Erik Luli has been busy brewing for weeks in order to open with a roster of approximately 20 beers. Classic styles like pilsner, saison, Kolsch, common ale, IPA and stout dominate but will be supported by seasonals and specials. Those beers, and limited can releases like the Zydrunas Ilgauskas collaboration PerZverance, also will begin appearing at select bars and restaurants around town. Erich Lasher, industry veteran and owner of the dearly departed La Cave du Vin, will be running a bar program that is sure to please beer, wine and cocktail enthusiasts alike.

The lofty main room boasts cathedral ceilings, a 15-seat bar and plenty of high top and booth seating. Additional seating can be found in an overflow/private dining space and forthcoming patio. The building comes with a large 40-car parking lot.

Immigrant Son is more than a catchy name; it’s the foundation of the entire project and it touches all aspects of the food and drink program.
“I’m a first-generation American,” Revy explains. “My parents are from Hungary, who came here two weeks before the revolution. So, I’m an immigrant son.”

  • Photo by Doug Trattner
  • Andrew Revy
Executive chef Rob Dippong has used that inspiration to create a globally inspired menu that draws on our city’s melting pot roots. The Johnson & Wales grad has his culinary sights set a little higher than what one would find at the neighborhood pub. There’s a section of lángos, the classic Hungarian fried bread, with various toppings and treatments. Other small plates include smoked and grilled whole wings, charred octopus with chorizo and romesco, Kolsch-steamed mussels frites, and cheddar-filled pierogies with butter and onion.

There are Eastern European salads like the shaved cucumber and beet with dill and sour cream as well as classic Greek and Caesar salads. The “handheld” section veers from traditional, like a smash burger with caramelized onions and Swiss, to the intriguing, as in the case of the chicken paprikash sandwich on challah. A full slate of entrees hits the mark with dishes like walleye fish and chips, smoked pork chop with spaetzle, wagyu steak frites, and bacon-wrapped meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

Beer makes its presence known throughout the menu, but especially in desserts like stout pot de crème, Hungarian kremes with stout chocolate sauce, and chocolate waffles with stout chocolate sauce.

The weekend brunch menu is equally tantalizing thanks to items like avocado toast, chimichurri omelets, banana pancakes, brown butter waffles, and eggs benedict starring that puffy Hungarian lángos.

Revy has spent years working on this project and he is quick to mention that the hardest work is yet to come. Now that the building and brewery are largely completed, he is shifting his focus to the softer side of the business. Rather than go the route of many of his brewery brethren, Immigrant Son will be a full-service establishment with slightly more ambitious aspirations.

“It’s not your corner bar, but it’s not your high-end white tablecloth place either,” Revy says. “It is about attention to the entire experience. We place equal attention to the beer as we do the food and the service. Great food and great beer can be ruined by poor service.”

Immigrant Son Brewery is located at 18120 Sloane Ave. and is expected to open in late September.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

L.A.-Based Dave's Hot Chicken to Open Location in Ohio City

Posted By on Wed, Oct 20, 2021 at 9:55 AM

Dave's Hot Chicken bound for Ohio City. - DAVE'S HOT CHICKEN
  • Dave's Hot Chicken
  • Dave's Hot Chicken bound for Ohio City.

Ohio City will welcome one of its first national restaurant chains when Dave's Hot Chicken opens its doors in spring of 2022. The fast-casual eatery will be taking a portion of the former W. 25th Street Furniture space at Chatham and W. 25th, according to commercial real estate broker Kevin Moss of CBRE.

The Los Angeles-based restaurant launched as a street-food concept in 2017. The streamlined menu of Nashville-style hot chicken drew many fans and before long the company secured investors and expanded throughout California, Toronto, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado and Texas. The Cleveland location is part of a big Midwest push for the brand. Columbus alone is expected to net 13 locations.

Diners can look forward to a concise menu of fried chicken tenders and tender sliders, offered in seven different spice levels that climb to the dreaded "reaper." Those items are joined by sides like crinkle-cut fries, kale slaw and mac and cheese.

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Heart of Gold Delivers a Tasty Menu, and a Service Experience, Very Much of These Times

Posted By on Wed, Oct 20, 2021 at 8:08 AM

The chicken sandwich at Heart of Gold - PHOTO BY DOUG TRATTNER
  • Photo by Doug Trattner
  • The chicken sandwich at Heart of Gold

I’ll never forget the time I spent $18 on a cocktail that arrived in a plastic cup. The drink was the Cosmic Trigger at Heart of Gold, an ice-filled concoction of gin, tea, amaro, honey and lemon. It was a pleasantly balanced, sweet-savory drink that would have tasted infinitely better in a proper Collins glass. If you don’t believe that appropriate drinkware enhances the cocktail experience, then you don’t take your spirits seriously.

At the peak of the pandemic, restaurants that were fortunate enough to survive by pivoting to take-out had no choice but to rely on single-use plastic containers, utensils and bags. As dine-in service returned, those same eateries continued to use disposables because they were believed by many to be the safe, sanitary option. But now that most staff and diners are vaccinated, and the experts assign the blame to airborne spread as opposed to surface transmission, what’s the motivation – apart from pleasing Big Plastic – to continue the practice?

The environmentally depressing glut of disposables – glasses, utensils, plates, napkins – is all the more incongruous given the surroundings. The Plum, the restaurant from which Heart of Gold hatched, was one of Cleveland’s most attractive dining spaces. The sleek, minimal bistro was painstakingly sculpted out of a 150-year-old building in Ohio City over the span of three years. Heck, the intricately snaked electrical conduit here is worth visiting alone.

But if the Plum has taught diners anything over the past five years, it is that restaurants either adapt or die. The seasonal, chef-driven menu, piloted by chef-owner Brett Sawyer, was always a moving target fueled by ambition, creativity and whimsy. But the pandemic put an end to all that and owner Jonah Oryszak announced that after being closed most of 2020, the Plum would not reopen. Instead, the space would become Heart of Gold, an even more casual neighborhood bar and kitchen.

By now, diners are increasingly familiar with the quick-serve dining model that sprang to life as a way of reducing labor costs. At H.O.G., diners walk in, place their order at the host stand and grab a seat. Drinks are ordered at the bar regardless your location inside or out. Want a glass of water? Pour it yourself from the Igloo cooler in the stunning but largely empty dining room. Care for another round of beverages? Get up and make your way back to the bar. At meal’s end, a friend at the table wondered aloud without a hint of sarcasm, “Are we supposed to clean up after ourselves as well?”

In Cleveland, Peak Fried Chicken Sandwich has given way to Peak Smash Burger, and Heart of Gold’s version ($14) is on point. Chef Adam Bauer doesn’t pile on the embellishments, allowing the beefy goodness of the twin patties to shine. The meat shares space inside the downy-soft milk bun with American cheese, sweet onions, dill pickles and Maggi-seasoned mayo. It is aggressively delicious. Because no self-respecting 21st-century fast-casual restaurant would be caught dead without a chicken sandwich, Bauer offers the “Obligatory Fried Chicken” sandwich ($12) in regular and spicy preparations. No surprise, she’s a beaut. The craggy crusted, juicy-centered bird is paired with napa slaw, spicy pickles and seasoned mayo.

We ordered four sandwiches in all, with the intent of slicing, passing and sharing the spoils. That was easier said than done when one is dealing with flimsy utensils and paper boats. But pass and taste we did, with the Old Major ($14) edging out the Mushroom-Meatloaf Melt ($14) for honors in the third and fourth positions. Billed as a “vegetarian Big Mac,” the Old Major was ridiculously savory, satisfying and impressive given that it is completely vegan (save for the cheese).

Bauer picked up his wing skills while working at Greenhouse Tavern, and you can taste the talent in the form of the chicken drums ($10). Like his former employer’s renowned wings, the chef’s drums are cured, slow-cooked in fat and deep fried to order, leaving them uber-crisp but also meltingly tender. Next time I’ll skip the slightly metallic tasting lemon-pepper dry rub in favor of the house hot or sesame garlic. Pair any and every sandwich with an order of waffle fries ($4).

A handful of salads and grain bowls rounds out the menu, with the Caesar ($10) largely faithful to the classic except for the righteous fried capers. H.O.G. keeps the menu pretty tight so the kitchen can stay seasonal and have some fun. Recent specials have included a popcorn chicken bowl with Ohio corn and pepper gravy, a brisket-stuffed footlong topped with pierogies and slaw, and a vegan crunch wrap with mushroom duxelles and salsa verde.

Specials like those, along with recurring deals like “nuggie night,” give food lovers plenty of cause to keep their eyes glued to the restaurant’s social media pages.

Heart of Gold
4133 Lorain Ave., Cleveland

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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Ohio Pie Co. Now Has An Expanded Dining Room at Its Brunswick Location

Posted By on Tue, Oct 19, 2021 at 1:45 PM

A whole dining room, now available at Ohio Pie Co. in Brunswick - AARON SECHRIST
  • Aaron Sechrist
  • A whole dining room, now available at Ohio Pie Co. in Brunswick

2021 has been a big year for Ohio Pie Co., which this summer opened its second location in Rocky River.

As for the OG down in Brunswick, this week the purveyors of Ohio-style pie debuted a new, expanded dining room, sure to be a welcome sight for travelers near and far who drop by the southern suburb.

Previously offering super limited seating and doing mostly take-out business, the dining room seats plenty and comes with even more artwork from partner and local artist Aaron Sechrist with help from Cleveland Mural and Paint, and a new front window sign from Old Soul Sign.

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Clifton Martini & Wine Bar Has Permanently Closed

Posted By on Tue, Oct 19, 2021 at 11:02 AM

The westside bar and restaurant has permanently closed - CLIFTON MARTINI & WINE BAR FB
  • Clifton Martini & WIne Bar FB
  • The westside bar and restaurant has permanently closed

After nearly 12 years in business, Clifton Martini & Wine Bar permanently and abruptly closed its doors for good yesterday.

Owner Jeff Rumplik said he decided to pull the plug not for any financial reason, labor decision, or anything to do with the pandemic. Business was good, in fact, and the popular westside establishment had made it through the brunt of the pandemic.

He decided to close, he said, after four years of what he called "constant harrassment" from his landlord, Wilsher Management, which owns the building.

"It's been four years of [them] putting up any hurdle they could — harrassing our delivery drivers, pretty much forcing out every other tenant in the building," Rumplik told Scene. "Even yesterday, he's saying I stole all his equipment. There was nothing in that space prior to me. Everything there was mine. He called the cops four times and they said it says right here in the lease this is his content. They were basically laughing at him."

Rumplik, who also owns Village Martini & Wine Bar in Chagrin Falls, sued Wilsher in early 2020 over a variety of claims related to his lease. That lawsuit is still ongoing, but he felt there was little recourse for now other than shutting up shop.

"We got through the pandemic," he said, "but I just wanted to get out of this."

A day after moving all his equipment out, Rumplik is still "shook."

"Yesterday was a rough day. Business was amazing. I never would have shut down if not for this," he said.

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