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.
Over the 14 or so years I’ve been visiting Canton, MI, it has increasingly becoming a suburb that’s attracting a lot of immigrants, and as a result now has a pretty significant Middle Eastern and Indian population. Along with this, it has picked up a rather large number of restaurants and stores, with some of the most notable growth being in Indian food and groceries (see my 2011 review of Neehee’s, for example). So I’m used to going through strip malls in the area and seeing some new Indian eateries, and this time I was particularly intrigued by one of them: Curry on Crust, which serves "Desi-Style Pizza"
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.
Duff’s wasn’t our only visit in Buffalo, however. After a good round of wings, you find yourself with some fire in the belly (and, if not careful, on ones lips and fingers as well), and I always find it’s good to follow up with some ice cream.
Well, Allie’s family is of the same general belief, so when we finished up at Duff’s, they suggested heading a few miles west on Sheridan to check out Anderson’s Custard. Anderson’s is one of the more prominent Buffalo-area custard chains, with about a dozen locations scattered through the Buffalo area. And they aren’t just a custard joint, they’ve got a full food menu as well, with various sandwiches, fries, and the Buffalo-obligatory beef-on-weck.
Since this year’s holiday vacation drive to Michigan via the US route is around 13 hours, this gave us a good excuse to break the drive up into two pieces, with a night in Buffalo. I rather like Buffalo as a food destination, since while it’s not exactly known for haute cuisine, it does have quite a few interesting regional specialties that I rather like. One good example is the beef-on-weck sandwich, one of my favorite variations of the roast beef sandwich (and you can read about one such beef-on-weck joint with my review of Charlie the Butcher’s). Another is Buffalo-style hot dogs, with Ted’s Hot Dogs being one of my favorite hot dog joints (although I usually visit their location located in the far, far distant suburb of Tempe, AZ). And, probably most famously, Buffalo is home of the Buffalo wing, with the Anchor Bar and Duff’s being two of the more-regaled places to get wings.
Well, our stopover in Buffalo gave us another opportunity to check out Duff’s (the last two times I tried to go we got there after closing).
This Christmas, we decided to visit Carol’s extended family in the Detroit area again, which meant for a long drive through Vermont (picturesque as Vermont is, it’s a terribly slow state to cross East-West. I’d be in favor of building an interstate crossing it), New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. To cross Vermont, we decided to cross along the southern part of the state at Highway 9, going through Bennington, for another try at The Blue Benn Diner.
You see, the Blue Benn has been on our hit list for, well, over a decade. It’s not that we’ve never tried to come her before, it has just never worked out. At least once we arrived just after they stopped serving. Another time, a kitchen fire had caused them to be closed. And yet another time, a power outage had them closed… and at that. this visit was a close call on that front, since several power lines were down in the area and detoured us around in our efforts to get there.
But this time we finally made it. Pulling into the Blue Benn around 12:30, we got there in time for a late breakfast with only a short wait in line in the cramped vestibule. Moving inside the restaurant, it’s a cozy diner (I originally thought it was a Worcester diner, but more careful research indicates it’s actually a Silk City diner) with the classic long counters and two sets of booths. Settling into a booth near the end of the diner, we selected our items and enjoyed our coffee while waiting and listening to the crowd, a nice mix of tourists and locals.
Twice in the last few years we’ve celebrated my birthday with a trip to the same place: Trattoria Delia in Burlington, VT. Nestled into a basement a block south of City Hall park, Trattoria Delia is the sort of place you can easily walk by without checking out… but behind the fairly subtle frontage is a fairly elaborate Italian restaurant with a slightly funky vibe that’s best described as “Sugar house meets Alps”. But despite the quirky decor, Trattoria Delia remains one of Vermonts best Italian restaurants, and this trip was no exception.
On December 9th, we traveled up to Burlington, VT to celebrate my birthday. En route, we took a short detour to Plainfield, VT, to check out Maple Valley Cafe, which had been strongly recommended by one of Carol’s coworkers.
Located on Route 2 just east of downtown Plainfield, Maple Valley is a slightly quirky place. It’s a café, take-out place and gift shop, all under one roof. But the back of the gift shop holds a surprisingly large dining area, and they’ve got a rather extensive menu of omelets, pancakes, fruit smoothies, and other breakfast treats.