For our last dinner in the Cleveland area, we were looking for a lighter dinner (have you seen all hot dogs, steaks, and pork products I consumed in the last few entries?), and as a result, we decided to check out a relative newcomer on the Cleveland scene, D.C. Pasta Co. in Strongsville, OH. First of all, the D.C. Pasta Co. name comes not from our nation’s capital, but from the owners’ initials, D.C. is the combined effort of Ohio chef Dante Boccuzzi (primarily known for his “Dante” and “d.b.a” restaurants), and Carmela del Busso (known for “Oggi”), giving the place it’s initials. D.C., situated in a small strip mall complex in Strongsville, is designed to be a fairly casual Italian place featuring house made pasta.
After we did the Cleveland Museum of Art, it was time for a late lunch. We wanted something interesting, but not something that was going to be heavy enough that we wouldn’t be hungry come dinner. After a little bit of discussion, we decided that it was time to check out Happy Dog on the West Side, known known for their wide variety of hot dog toppings.
Okay, I can already feel the skeptical vibe coming from some of my readers. The world has a lot of hot dog places, what makes a place like Happy Dog worth some of your precious stomach sapce? And I’ll be the first to admit, hot dogs as a menu item are often a high-risk item: while there are a lot of really great hot dog places out there (Indeed, I’ve reviewed about 20 on this site), there are a lot of dubious ones as well, and for every lovingly-assembled Gold Coast Chicago Dog, or pepper-relished-covered Blackie’s hot dog I’ve had, I’ve also been served up more than my share of Oscar Mayer 10 per lb hot dogs slapped onto a stale bun with ketchup and mustard to know that hot dogs generally aren’t the sort of thing I get without doing some research first. But I’ll tell you that from my visit, Happy Dog isn’t one of those places, instead, they are a great dive-ish joint that’s serving up some really great hot dogs with some good toppings.
On our last full day in Cleveland, we wanted to get some breakfast before doing our daily exploring, and, quite frankly, we wanted donuts. The problem is, it’s rather hard to find good donuts these days… sure, there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts on damn near ever corner, but those aren’t really good donuts (especially since the vast majority of DD locations don’t bake on-site anymore, just truck in their donuts from a regional bakery). I actually remember a time when there were a lot of independent donut shops selling donuts and coffee, but these days you usually have to do a little bit of research to find the few remaining ones. One of those is Becker’s Donuts.
One of the reasons that we decided to stop over in Cleveland on the way home is that it’s a surprisingly good food destination in itself. In addition to one of the better public markets in the US (their famous West Side Market) and a surprisingly vibrant Asian community, Cleveland has a rather impressive assortment of top-notch dining establishments (including such places as AMP 150, Greenhouse Tavern, and Lola). But one chef I’ve been particularly interested in following is Mike Nowak. I first met Mike via a mutual friend when he was a chef at Bar Cento, and more recently enjoyed some of his work at Market Garden, and continue to enjoy both of those establishments (indeed, I visited both on this trip). So when I heard earlier this year that he was opening up his own restaurant, Black Pig, down the block (in the spot previously occupied by Dragonfly, which I had been to in the past), I was intrigued and made it a point to visit next time I was in town.
After our trip to Michigan, on the way back home we again stopped in Cleveland, primarily so that I could introduce Carol to some of my Cleveland favorites (Greenhouse Tavern and Bar Cento/Bier Markt, primarily), as well as check out a new place (Black Pig). All-in-all, however, we spent a rather substantial part of our time exploring Ohio City, the Cleveland neighborhood west of the Hope Memorial Bridge, and home of Great Lakes Brewery. But while walking alking through Ohio City, we came across this interesting little place attached to the back of the Old Angle Bar: Bogtrotter’s Doorstep, which specializes in Au Jus Sandwiches, and it looked like the exact sort of place we should stop in for lunch.
Our US-based route from New Hampshire to Detroit also had us passing through Cleveland at lunchtime. While we were coming back to Cleveland for three days later in the trip, I figured this would be a good opportunity to check out someplace towards the East side of town, perhaps towards China Town. In fact, we had both been craving dim sum for a while, and Cleveland has more than a few dim sum joints, so I figured I’d give one a try. However, from past experience, I know that they vary greatly in quantity, price, and authenticity, so I decided to check out my friend Nancy’s blog, Fun Playing With Food, and see if she had any recommendations. And upon reading her recent review of Emperor’s Palace, it sounded like it was worth checking out.
You know, sometimes I’ll have to admit that I just don’t know when to say when. Despite having four solid days of eating and drinking my way through Chicago on the Death March, and being mere days away from the planned Austin BBQ bender, events related to my travel schedule conspired to leave me with a few spare hours in Columbus, Ohio. While I rather enjoyed my visit to Tommy’s Diner the last time I found myself in this situation, I wanted to try something different, so I put out a call for recommendations on Facebook. Several people I know, most of whom live in or near Columbus, responded with the same place, the Thurman Cafe in Colombus’ German Village neighborhood.
And no rest for the weary. Coming back from Chicago, I immediately turned around and left on a work trip to Dayton. Dayton’s not a bad place. I particularly like the National Museum of the United States Air Force, since nothing like a few hours of looking at airplans like SR-71s to cheer you up (at least if you are an engineer like me). But, to be honest, Dayton is always a bit of a challenging culinary destination for me, primarily since I mostly seem to end up staying in suburbs like Beavercreek, and I’m really not into places like The Olive Garden. But it’s also not a culinary wasteland. I actually rather like The Pine Club, which is one of those olde schoole steak houses that still seems to be stuck at some point in the 1960s. And, as I mentioned before in my review of Maharajah of Dayton, thriving Indian community (primarily Punjabi), and as a result, quite a few decent Indian restaurants, although most of them seem to focus on buffets. But a few of them do indeed have some rather good food, and from two visits there, I can say that Jeet is one of the better ones.
After our business meeting in Dayton, and a dew spare hours spent at Wright-Patterson AFB at the Museum of the United States Air Force, it was time for us to head back home, via the Columbus airport.
On the way, we decided to stop off for some lunch at Tommy’s Diner in Columbus. Located on the west side of town in the Franklinton neighborhood, it’s a bit off the beaten path. Well, not quite, the path is actually beaten to Tommy’s, since that place pretty much is the major destination for that neighborhood.
Tommy’s is basically the embodiment of your classic Greek-owned diner of the ’50s. Sporting two of those U-shaped Formica counters, swivel stools, and waitresses that still call you “Hon” when you order, Tommy’s has your basic Greek diner fare: burgers, hot dogs, gyros, grilled sandwiches, fries, and the like. They also have a lot of kitsch on the walls, including old road signs, and the fairly obligatory wall of old license plates.
A few weeks ago, my work travels had me traveling for an off-site meeting near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, so my coworker and I found ourselves staying a night at the Hilton Garden Inn in Beavercreek, Ohio, a modest suburb of Dayton.
This is the kind of situation that happens to me a lot, primarily due to my mix of (mostly-governmental) clients: I find myself stuck, often without a rental car, in a suburb outside of a non-major metro area, with few options aside from the hotel’s on-site restaurant, or a loooong walk to someplace only marginally better (like an Olive Garden).
This looked to be the case for Beavercreek as well, but as we were pulling into the hotel, I noticed an Indian place in the adjacent strip mall, called Maharajah of Dayton. I also then remember that the Dayton area actually has a fairly large Indian population (indeed, there’s actually a fairly substantial Hindu temple there), so I decided it was worth checking out.