Monday, April 12, 2010

The Adirondacker

There is a beauty in hamburger that most people don't really understand.  Ground meat is as versatile as pasta. I will often just mix in dices leek, Worcester Sauce, bread crumbs, egg, and chopped garlic.  Just the variety of cheeses that could go on a burger can make the flavor change drastically.  There is nothing like a good Jalapeño cheddar!   I really love to hear about other people's creativity with their burgers.  For this reason, I am an avid fan of Rachel Ray.  She has a feature recipe in her magazine each month devoted to the nuance of the burger.  Bon appetit indeed.

(Source: Rachel Ray Magazine, Februrary 2010)

The Adirondacker


  • 8 slices smoked bacon
  • 2 pounds ground sirloin
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 ounces shredded or sliced extra-sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (a generous handful)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped chives (a generous handful)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped dill (a generous handful)
  • 4 crusty kaiser rolls, split
  • 1 bunch watercress or arugula, chopped


  1. In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Discard all but 1 tablespoon bacon fat.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the sirloin, Worcestershire sauce and horseradish; season with salt and pepper. Form into 4 patties. Heat the bacon fat in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef patties and cook, turning once, for 8 minutes for medium. Melt the cheese on top of the patties during the last 2 minutes of cooking.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the sour cream, parsley, chives, dill and lots of pepper.
  4. Place the cheeseburgers on the roll bottoms and top each with 2 slices bacon and some watercress. Slather the bun tops with the sour cream sauce and set into place.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Business and Burgers: Two Dads' Diner

DSCN2719 Before moving to Cleveland in 2003, I spent two years in upstate New York, working hard earning my M.B.A. at the Simon School. The winters of Rochacha, as it’s referred to by the natives, are cold, snowy, gray and the city rests just south of one of the five Great Lakes. Sound familiar? To keep the energy going, the school would sometimes host after hour events at the local diners, places where, for $10, you could order a three-course dinner complete with canned chicken soup, a burger and fries and even a piece of chocolate pie. The decor in these diners stayed true to its 70’s blue collar origins and the yellow lighting and solo customers sipping their sole cup of coffee before stepping outside for a smoke reminded you why movies, politicians and diners go hand in hand: there’s a quiet understanding of social distance and simultaneous friendliness, a contrast of decision-making suits enjoying cheap meals next to time-clocked people in uniforms. A good diner will serve you a cup of coffee, a sandwich and a side order of “Enjoy and carry on.”

As a frequenter of this type of dining establishment, I had to go and try Two Dads’ Diner on Detroit in Lakewood. Recruiting a couple of downtown Cleveland residents as my accomplices, we headed to the new restaurant on a casual workday evening. Parking right in front of the doors, we entered and, quickly, one of the waitresses asked us where we wanted to sit. It’s a diner, so, personally, nothing but a booth would do. The three of us chose one, towards the back, away from the draft of the front door. Hungry and cold, we immediately began to investigate the menu, but not until we checked out the space. Fabric-covered booths against the wall, muted green colors accenting the neutral surrounding decor, desserts staged near the register on inexpensive plastic pedestal plates with see-through tall lids and unpretentious and helpful, witty employees. Yep, this is very much a timeless, kitschy diner cafe.

We proceeded to order: chicken paprikash, hamburger with onion rings and, of course, a tuna melt with fries and a chocolate milk shake. Before the food arrived, the owner, John, one of the two dads, who made the rounds with the others guests, stopped by and chatted up with us. A tall man with an edgy sense of humor, he proceeded to give us the story. He and Frank, the other dad who is the chef, have known each other for years and, between the two of them, they have “two wives and eight daughters.” They wanted to go into business together and thought that opening this would be the perfect opportunity to do what they love.

John continued to entertain us until our food arrived, and, as our eyes were hungrier than our stomachs, we pretty much devoured our meals. For the most part, we enjoyed everything. My tuna melt, not a standard menu option, thus custom made, had a very distinct taste. The tuna salad, intended to be eaten sans the toast and hot cheese, surprised me a little with its extra kick. Beyond that, the meals tasted like the food one would expect at such a place, just better. That’s because the two dads do what they can to serve local produce. Even the meat comes from the butcher, directly across the street. Additionally, the portions are generous and the prices are incredibly reasonable. Finally, Frank prepares several of the staples from scratch, including the blue cheese dressing, the salad croutons – crispy on the outside and layered in flavor on the inside – and the home-made onion ring sauce, a combination of horseradish, mayo, Worchester, ketchup and other ingredients, giving it a creamy consistency with a vinegar-based sharpness. Two Dads’ Diner is diner food, plus.

During our conversation with John, I mentioned to him that his new restaurant reminded me of what the Theatrical Grill, (opened by Morris “Mushy” Wexler), may have once been, sans the jazz and the jars of pickles on the tables. John was stunned that I even knew what the Theatrical was and I reassured him that, as a non-native Clevelander, the only reason I knew about it was because it’s frequently mentioned in Crooked River Burning (by Mark Winegardner – the book should be the mandatory welcome manual to anyone moving here. But that’s another topic for another column). And, based on this historical novel set in this city, my impression of the former Vincent street legendary establishment is one of a place where politicians, mobsters and business people made their deals, quietly, and where big decisions that influenced the lives of Clevelanders occurred. Two Dads’ Diner, just down the street from a well-known congressman’s office and blocks away from numerous office buildings, while not a grand entertainment venue, gives off that same kind of vibe. It’s like “Glengarry Glen Ross” meets “Cheers.”

About a week after this outing, my neighbor and I stopped in to have some lunch at Two Dads’. Both dressed in casual sweats, sans makeup and really just there to enjoy a cup of soup and a sandwich before heading back home to work, we observed the incredibly kind service, the very fresh food and, a row down, the uber important looking men, in suits, discussing something, quietly. Mssr. Wexler would be so proud.

Two Dad’s Diner has no website, but does have a thriving and loyal Facebook Page. Info: 14412 Detroit Ave, Lakewood, OH, 44107 Phone: 216-226-3270 Hours: Mon – Sat: 7:00 am – 8:00 pm, Sun: 7:00 am – 2:00 pm

Reprinted with permission and gratitude from

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Banana Cream Pie

Banana Cream Pie is the definition of down-home decadence.  It is so rich and delightful that it has been years since I allowed myself the pleasure of enjoying this wonder.  To me, it feels as risqué as spending a weekend riding with a rough motorcycle gang.  Dangerous, self-gratifying, fun, and somehow out-of-bounds.  It is easily one of my favorite desserts, but I know that there can be no self-control with this bad-boy around.  It will haunt me until I am drunk with flavors so complete and complex that it forces me to press forward - just one more bite!  Just like so many haunted characters, this friend is surprisingly simple.  Beaten early and long, the golden exterior belies a soft, creamy underbelly that melts hearts and tastes simultaneously.  Stay away.  Stay away or be stricken with longing for the rest of your lives.  Please god, deliver me (another pie).

Banana Cream Pie


  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 egg yolks, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 (9 inch) pie crust, baked
  • 4 bananas, sliced


  1. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, flour, and salt. Add milk in gradually while stirring gently. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is bubbly. Keep stirring and cook for about 2 more minutes, and then remove from the burner.
  2. Stir a small quantity of the hot mixture into the beaten egg yolks, and immediately add egg yolk mixture to the rest of the hot mixture. Cook for 2 more minutes; remember to keep stirring. Remove the mixture from the stove, and add butter and vanilla. Stir until the whole thing has a smooth consistency.
  3. Slice bananas into the cooled baked pastry shell. Top with pudding mixture.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 12 to 15 minutes. Chill for an hour.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Long Progression: Espresso

I find it interesting and amusing how there is this long progression of development in tastes in the culinary arts.  For instance, newbie wine drinkers usually start with something light and sweet, and after a long process of defining their pallet,  will eventually find that wine distasteful and instead go for a brutal, dry Cabernet Sauvignon.  At least I will.  Similarly, those who subsist on chicken fingers will never understand the delicate flavors and amazing complexities of a foie gras.  But frankly, I can enjoy either equally.  Maybe I need some more work on that one...

Espresso is one of these complex and full tastes that isn't easily appreciated without a long history with the coffee bean.  My first coffees were heavily spiked with cream and sugar.  It took many years before relaxing the cream and eliminating the sugar.  I still enjoy a bit of half and half with my morning cup.  But that cup is made from a darkly roasted arabic coffee bean.  Drinking coffee from robusto beans in a jaunty light roast feels like someone is robbing me.  Something is missing or something has been taken.

There is something to be said for how you are introduced to your tastes as well.  I had taken shots of espresso from local US cafes and it never really seemed to tempt my pallet.  It was experimental.  What about this espresso stuff?  There was no process.  Even a good wine requires a full bouquet, a good view through the glass, and the experience as each swallow piques the sensory specialties of each section of your tongue.  Understanding that food takes time.  We are not talking time in the perfunctory sense of the word, but time in the sense of really being present to the experience of not just the food but also the process of the food.

I am going to expect that this idea of being present to your food may be hard to swallow.  (Eh-hem)   After all, it seems that there are so few times in our days that we are fully present to our experience at all.  We are so often preoccupied with the pressure of our day, plans for the future, or worries around some drama that pure experiences get drowned out by the conversations in our heads.

I feel lucky that I was able to take a little time with a new friend one weekend in Strasbourg, France.  We sat at a outdoor cafe in June facing the awesome cathedral in this town and he ordered us each an espresso.  I watched him, fascinated by the care and precision with with he prepared and drank his tiny cup.  Naturally, I copied him and I have since never looked back.  I found that the best preparation comes from the simplest means, a $20 stove-top espresso maker, a can of Italian roast, and some tiny cups.  The hardest part is still slowing down to really experience and enjoy the flavor.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chocolate Bar: Temptation Made Easy

On the edge of East 4th Street, Cleveland’s gastronomic Mecca, where Vivo once stood, the Chocolate Bar recently opened its doors. A franchise restaurant with another location in Buffalo, the name alone generated a certain buzz across town and peaked the interest of some friends who know a thing or two about the food industry.
Thus, on a chilly mid-January evening, after a delicious dinner at Greenhouse, the four of us headed to Chocolate Bar for decadence and discussion.

Walking in from the Euclid entrance (vs. the Arcade), we immediately noticed the counter, selling premium chocolates as well as t-shirts with clever chocolate expressions.

Also, while some of the previous tenant’s interiors seemed familiar, significant changes within the space, including different lighting, an elevated corner platform and a glass refrigerator showcasing an array of goodies, made it evident that someone new has arrived. Additionally, on a background screen, “Willy Wonka” (the remake) plays, sans sound. From our initial impression, we knew we crossed into a chocolate zone and couldn’t wait to sit down and enjoy some delicacies to curb our cravings.

The quiet Monday evening provided seating flexibility and quick service. Our waitress arrived promptly and, from the get go, permeated a great energy: not only did she bring the men the custom drink they ordered without any hassle, but she also hammed it up with us, revealing a personality that fit well within a theme restaurant.
To be clear, Chocolate Bar features a full menu, including appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches and main dishes. But, with its immediate name association, the four of us ordered the following five desserts: The Belgian Chocolate Pyramid ($6.95), “Belgian chocolate mousse with a hint of hazelnut praline covered in a shell of chocolate,” Frozen Hot Chocolate ($9.95) [pictured, bottom] “Made famous in NYC,” Kahlua Heath Bar Torte ($6.59) [pictured, center] “a smooth rich chocolate mousse with a hint of Kahlua, Heath bar and crushed cookie bottom,” Hot Fudge ($7.95) “Vanilla ice cream, homemade hot fudge, real whipped cream,” and an Alp’ Accino ($12.95) [pictured, top], a trademarked “Chocolate Bar original liquor milkshake.”

The mere anticipation of these gluttonous delights aroused an excitement within us, and anyone needing to lure in a potential mate should keep this sensation in mind. Regardless of one’s age group, Chocolate Bar is a foolproof destination for anyone in the early dating or relationship rekindling stages. With its divine menu of food options, dimmed atmosphere, swanky location and alcoholic ambrosial pourings – including over twenty distinct martini choices – it will spice up a mood, opening doors that might otherwise remain closed.

Thus, when our food arrived, we were more than ready to embrace the offerings. The generous alcohol of the Alp’ Accino, a heavenly child-like concoction, quickly reminded us that it’s very much a grown-up drink. Barring the over-indulgent portions of whipped cream on most of the desserts we ordered, the iced hot chocolate also resonated quite well with this group. The other three desserts, while all in wonderful presentation and in various degrees of texture, felt almost interchangeable. As one of my friends stated, “Everything ends on the same note.” Another friend strongly recommended a comeback visit, to try different menu items, for better overall restaurant assessment.

Completely unplanned, as life usually happens, three days later, an hour after receiving a text from a Chicago friend in town on business, I joined him and his crew of architects at Lola’s, where the gentlemen wrapped up their dinner. Afterwards two of the architects, whom I’ve both known for over twenty years, and I headed north, back to Chocolate Bar. In the midst of a post-game crowd, with downtown Cleveland alive with energy, the three of us entered what felt like a completely different venue. Suddenly, Chocolate Bar was packed. Specifically, the bar was packed with patrons and the overall vibe had a certain mojo going.
Our waiter, friendly, warm and quick, brought out our orders: Dark Hot Chocolate ($5.95), Roarin’ Root Beer Float ($5.95) with bourbon ($2.50) and an appetizer – Steak Crostini ($9.95), “grilled steak with garlic baguette, provolone, caramelized onions and parsley oil.” The crostini – juicy and full of flavor – tasted scrumptious, even at 11:15PM, and the gentlemen were quite pleased with their drinks.

To truly have a happy and memorable experience at Chocolate Bar, one thing to keep in mind when ordering your desserts is which school of chocolate you fall into: sugar or cocoa. If the former, you will love the heavy portions of whipped cream and many of the beautiful and quite sweet desserts. If the latter, look for items marked using dark chocolate, hold the whipped cream and lean towards items that use branded ingredients in the recipe – flavors that you already know.

Overall, an experience at Chocolate Bar lifts the spirits and taps into a sensual subconscious. The quick and friendly service, wide menu of options and beautiful presentation stage this new concept spot as an excellent extension of East 4th Street. So give Chocolate Bar a try. Temptation awaits you.

For hours and additional menu info, visit

Reprinted with permission from

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Retro Burgercraft: It’s no fiction, Five Guys satisfies

During the post-holiday season, my neighbor Jenn and I took a work lunch break and headed to Lakewood’s new foodie destination: Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

While other Cleveland locations exist (there’s at least six in the area), the Detroit Avenue Culinary Mile, home to numerous and quite diverse dining options, only recently welcomed this Arlington, Virginia sensation.

Jenn and I found metered parking right in front of the restaurant, a good thing considering the block’s parking lot is behind the building and there’s no backdoor access. Not a big deal in the summer, or for anyone from a high-traffic city, but in the winter, proximity from car door to front door is key.
We walked in and immediately noticed the retro red and white and the long path towards the back of the restaurant, guided by multiple color-coordinated bags and boxes of peanuts and potatoes. Customers can nosh on the peanuts, for free, while waiting for the food to be cooked. We also heard Led Zepplin on the loud speaker, as, we later learned, classic music is the soundtrack of this eatery. Media-bragging signs cover the walls, including proclaiming Five Guys the “Willy Wonkas of Burgercraft.”

Taking everything in, as we approached the counter, the very nice young man in designer glasses taking our order first asked if we’ve been to a Five Guys before, and, as neither of us had, explained the super short menu: Burgers (regular), Burgers (small), Kosher-style hot dogs, fries and drinks (pop and water). To my disappointment, no milkshakes. What would Vincent Vega do? The cashier continued, “The regular burger has two patties, while the small burger has one. I’d recommend each of you order the small. Also, pick any toppings you’d like, they are all free.” Decisions, decisions. Following his recommendation, Jenn and I each ordered a regular cheeseburger, a soft drink and one cup of fries to share.
With Santana serenading us, Jenn and I sat down and, while waiting for the food to arrive, began to observe the place and its customers: Five Guys doesn’t really feel like a diner, nor like that other burger chain with red as its primary color. Five Guys resonates the atmosphere of a place one could stop and eat at on a long cross-country road trip. (That is, before the highway service stops all began to look alike and offer the same contractual chain food “options.”)

Casual bleached wood dining furniture fills up the new space and plenty of seating exists for the rotating crowd: white and blue collar, older, kids with parents and everyone in between. Like characters in a movie, literally anyone could walk into this place, looking for something old or something new, or, just passing through.

One of the servers brought out our order and, though we’d be eating “in,” the food came out in bags and not on trays. Personally, I prefer a little more substance between my food and the table it’s on. Jenn and I eagerly opened our bags and took out our meals. But, before we dug in, I noticed a piece of bacon sticking out of my burger. To quote Jules Winnfield, the Pulp Fiction religiously righteous assassin, played perfectly by Samuel Jackson, “I don’t dig on swine.”

Thus, I quietly took out the pork strips before taking my first bite. The burgers were very juicy and the buns: fresh and soft. But the winner in our lunch ensemble was the French fries. While so many other chains have messed around with the oil on their fries so much that one never knows what to expect when heading into a familiar location, I now vote that all potato, moving forward, be cooked in peanut oil. These are, quite possibly, the best French fries I’ve ever had.

After emptying our soft drinks, and realizing we still had half a serving of these incredible morsels left in the bag, I refilled our beverages at the self-serve fountain and returned to our table, when Jenn and I noticed some of the staff seated in front of black mini-laptops with light reflecting in the readers’ eyes, all focused on company training. What are the laptops saying? What’s inside? We may never know.

On the company website, one of the reviews, from The Virginian-Pilot, headlines “Get a tasty burger at Five Guys Burgers and Fries.” Tasty burger. The only time I’ve ever heard that combination of words was in Pulp Fiction, when Jules, along with partner in crime Vincent Vega (John Travolta), breaks into a college student’s apartment, only to take his lunch, amongst other things, away from him. Between the classic rock music, the road-trip like atmosphere and the very tasty burgers, even righteous Jules would be satisfied at Five Guys. For hours and a location near you, visit

Reprinted with permission from

Monday, March 8, 2010

Pasta, Pasta, Pasta

The comfort of staple foods plays a big part in why I cook and what I choose to put on my menu.  There is a rich history in grains of rice, beans, potatoes and breads.  These foods make me think of the countries and cultures that have subsisted on them for centuries on one hand, and about how my family has lived on them with the other hand.  Few foods provide a more dramatic culinary springboard than pasta.  For the first 30 years of my life, my lens of italian-based foods were based on pasta.  Fortunately, frequent exposure to eastern rice noodles and other cultures has really shown how this staple can be so diversely used.

Over the last few months, I have been learning more and more about these staples.  I have baked most of my own bread over the last three months and have really enjoyed the process and the results.  Frankly, the idea of making my own pasta was a little intimidating.  How can such an important food be only two ingredients (flour and eggs)?  There must be really something to it.

Recently, however, I read a great book that prompted me to gather up my courage.  The book is called, "The School of Essential Ingredients."  It is written artfully by Erica Bauermeister.  There are few things that I love more than when a good book provides me with insight.  This is such a book.  It reminds me to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n and enjoy the process.  As a wise person told me this last week, "How can we be happy, when we are not even present?"  Pasta really brings me into the present and helps me let loose of my constant forward focus.  I think that is part of what has really drawn me to making bread and pasta recently.  The process forces you to be present and the creation of something so fulfilling brings me great joy.  Often, when I create, I miss the experience of joy that comes with it because I am not present - I am already on to the next thing.

I haven't tried my pasta yet.  I made lasagna noodles and cooked it up last last night.  It was a bit of work, but I really enjoyed it.  In the spirit of Lillian's kitchen from this great book, here is the recipe for making pasta:

Homemade Pasta

Two Handfuls of Flour
Three Eggs

Softly plop two handfuls of flour onto a counter and make a hole in the middle with your fingers so that it looks like a volcano.  Break the eggs into the middle of the volcano.  With a fork beat the eggs together to break the yolk and slowly start to absorb the flour into the eggs until it is fully absorbed.  If the dough becomes sticky, add more flour.  If the dough becomes crumbly, add water a little bit at a time.  Knead for 20 minutes until the dough becomes silky and springy.  Break into four balls and set on the counter.  Cover with an inverted bowl and let rest for one hour.

After an hour, take each ball and roll it out on your counter with a rolling pin until very thin (you know how thin pasta is).  Pull and roll, flipping the pasta and rolling consistently.  Once the dough is rolled to the right thickness, take a knife or pizza cutter and cut the pasta into the desired shape.  Very thin slices for spaghetti, thicker for linguine, really thick for lasagna.  After the pasta is cut, let it sit for another hour.  Then use however you would use pasta (boil, etc.)

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Primal Urge for Simple Food: B Spot Transports

If you live in the Cleveland area and haven’t heard of chef extraordinaire Michael Symon, then you either don’t watch tv, don’t eat or don’t have friends who do either. Currently working the media circuit to support his new book “Live to Cook,” Symon is everywhere and his physical presence in this town has expanded, once again.

Michael recently opened B Spot, a burger and beer place in Eton Center, on Cleveland’s East Side. A very different restaurant concept from East 4th Street’s Lola or Tremont’s Lolita, B Spot caters to the Midwesterner’s hearty appetite for simple food – food that requires no explanation because our evolved gastronomical palettes sometimes crave the delicious and satisfying basics that we consumed as children.

I met television chef Anthony Bourdain at a conference I attended in South Beach a few years ago. According to Anthony, “The tipping point in the American palette was when Americans wanted to eat sushi…Suddenly a white fried fillet was not the only acceptable way to eat fish.” Over the past twenty years, our insatiable and often competitive craving for the exotic has overarched our love for the Great American Meal: burgers and fries. And today, when life is complicated, the primal urge for simple food seems, well, almost evolutionary.

My friend Sara and I made plans to meet at Eton at 1:30, on December 26, the day after Christmas - a day that’s not immune to its own cyclical chaos. As I pulled into the parking lot, around 1:15, I spotted Sara pulling out, so I honked my horn. She saw me, rolled down the window and said she would park on the other side of Chagrin, as the lot was packed. Given current economic times, a packed shopping center in Northeast Ohio is an excellent sign. Lucky for me, relying on my Chicago parking skills, I found a spot, right in front of B Spot.

We met inside the restaurant, which, at 1:20 on a Saturday afternoon was quite crowded - another excellent consumer spending sign. We put our names down and were told by the courteous staff, all wearing B Spot t-shirts, that the wait would be 40 – 45 minutes. Sara and I left, perused the mall – the indoor shops and the ones with outdoor entrances, also all jammed with consumers looking for deals - and then returned to be seated at the available table.

B Spot décor is comprised of dark colors – browns, blacks, grays and metallics – and there’s a hustle-and-bustle energy amongst the crew. The atmosphere, including the open kitchen, is informal, and the details create a unique garage-like feel: imagine an industrial lodge during a busy ski season. There’s definitely “green” attention given to the place and the mixed use of metals and woods throughout the restaurant provides a distinct canvas to everything including the silver painted antler chandelier, the closed garage door stretching from the roof to the window wall and the disassembled, re-adhered and monochromed Harley motorcycle suspended right above B Spot’s cozy bar. Symon’s personal stamp is present everywhere.

A few minutes after Sara and I sat down, the server came over to our table, brought the menus and entered our drink selections into an efficient PDA device, one more green step in the ever-changing restaurant scene. The menu’s basic category offerings – Bar Snacks and Sides, Big Salads, Burgers, Bologna and Other, Bratwurst and Bad **s Milkshakes - helped calm the decision–making skills our brains use with far more complex choices at the local coffee place. However, it’s the beer menu that requires deep hops knowledge: it lists approximately 50 different options. Chances are, if beer is your thing, you will find something here.

Sara, a vegetarian, opted for the Tomato Blue Cheese Soup ($4) and for The Simple Salad ($4). I went basic: cheeseburger ($6), medium, with American cheese and an order of Lola Fries ($3), which, like many of menu items, are cooked in lard; they are not for vegans, vegetarians nor those who adhere to strict/religious dietary laws. Sara and I also ordered chocolate milkshakes ($5), which came out quickly and, sipped or gulped through the thick straw, immediately take you back to some happy childhood experience. Milkshakes are Pavlovian and the rich flavor and thick consistency of the B Spot shakes make all of life’s troubles, even if briefly, magically disappear.

There are other small details in this new East Side restaurant that make things just a little more special: in the middle of the crowded space is a condiment bar, thus, if you crave more pickles, take as many as you want. For the napkin-o-holics needing a frequent fix, a vertical metal pipe stands on each table, holding a roll of eco-friendly brown paper towels. And, speaking of fixings, a metal tray containing eight different bottled sauces, from regular ketchup and stadium mustard to Lola’s Ketchup and even Coffee BBQ Sauce are also provided to customize your meal to your liking.

As evident by the crowd on a late weekend afternoon, people like B Spot a lot. Luckily, there’s seating expansion into the inside mall and, in kinder climate, the garage door will open to an outdoor deck. Personally, I can’t wait for that summer outing where, sitting outside on a sunny warm Cleveland afternoon, I’ll be sipping my milkshake, eating my burger and enjoying adult escapism, all at the B Spot.

For location and hours:

Reprinted with permission from