Twiisted Burgers & Sushi – Medina, OH

You don’t exactly expect to find the unusual combination of burgers & sushi anywhere, but especially not 30 miles south of Cleveland in Medina, Ohio.  The surprise and delight were both there though when we settled on this spot this past weekend for dinner with my aunt and uncle.  A few miles north of the town square, this free-standing building has a modern, but causal decor split into a dining room and bar with high top tables.  We were greeted quickly on a Friday night and sat immediately at a dining table close to the sushi chefs.

IMG_0995

Our friendly server took our drink order as we settled on various martinis, wine and a Kentucky mule.  There’s a good selection of cocktails, wines and craft beers and the prices are all reasonable.  With drinks in hand, we looked over the large menu of appetizers, salads, sandwiches and of course their signature burgers and sushi.  While we didn’t get any starters, the duck wings and pulled pork egg rolls sounded and looked amazing.

Two in our group had burgers.  This Fun-Gi was a fresh burger patty topped with a marinated portobello mushroom, roasted garlic mayo, onion straws, melted swiss and a fried egg.  My uncle thought it was awesome and it looked delicious!  My wife had the Twiisted Classic with bacon, cheddar, pickled onion, lettuce and tomato and was equally pleased.  Both were served on fresh brioche buns and were topped with a “sushi pickle” – dill and cream cheese rolled in rice and seaweed.  Your choice of sweet potato waffle or regular fries were hot and crispy, the latter served with house made ketchup.

FullSizeRender 20

My aunt and I sampled a few sushi rolls which were fresh and well-prepared.  The traditional spicy tuna and Philly rolls were good and prepared well, but nothing special.  The specialty rolls though were fantastic combinations, and frankly, gigantic!  The Embassy is shrimp tempura, smoked salmon, avocado and cream cheese, tempura battered and fried, then topped with spicy crab, spicy mayo and eel sauce.  The Medina Bee (the high school mascot) is shrimp tempura, spicy crab, tuna and carrots topped with eel sauce, spicy mayo and wasabi mayo.  Equally tasty, both specialties were beautiful and expertly prepared.

FullSizeRender 19

It was a surprising night out in Medina, but it won’t be anymore when we return again and again!  And there’s no doubt why the folks here have catered for the Indians, Cavs and many companies in the area.  Whether a weeknight, special night out or a group event, I suggest you add Twiisted to your list of places to visit.  You can find out more on their website at twiisted.com.  Dig in!

The Tousey House Tavern – Burlington, KY

We were looking for someplace unique for Mother’s Day dinner a few weeks ago and made a reservation at the highly-recommended Tousey House.  When we pulled up in front of the historic federalist-style home, I had a feeling we were in for a treat.  Beautiful decor throughout this period home provides a comfortable atmosphere with ample seating inside and out.  Whether inside, outside or in the tiny bar area, you’re swept away to era gone by.

IMG_0887

Our friendly server shared with us the menu and a few stories to introduce us to the location.  As expected, there’s a beautiful selection of southern fare along with some local and updated dishes.  While we didn’t have an appetizer, I was longing for the fried green tomatoes or shrimp and grits.  The goetta egg rolls really had me intrigued as well, but we were sticking to dinner and dessert.  Salads were fresh, crisp and a good portion size – the Ceasar looked especially good.  We went about ordering and enjoyed warm homemade biscuits with our drinks.

My wife ordered the ribeye which is served with a smoked tomato-rosemary demi-glace and crispy onions.  A huge piece of beef, it was cooked to perfection.  The sauce was a beautiful highlight to the tender beef.  A few people at the table ordered the Tousey Hot Brown – a traditional execution of ham, turkey, tomato and bacon served over toast points and covered in Mornay sauce and melted cheese.  While not as creamy as others we’ve had, it was delicious!  Being the traditionalist, I had to order the fried chicken.  The four large pieces (half a chicken) were lightly breaded and crispy golden brown.  It was a terrific execution and served with mashed potatoes (a bit average) and southern-style green beans.  We felt the southern hospitality as we enjoyed the home cooking and tasty favorites.

FullSizeRender

We really enjoyed our dinner as well as a few sweet treats – it’s a variable dessert menu, but the chocolate cake and berry cobbler were grandma-worthy preparations!  Executive chef Jonathan Weiss has done a beautiful job with the menu and delivers on every expectation.  Open for lunch and weekend brunch as well, you’ll want to stop in or make a reservation soon.  It’s too good to not make a special trip!  Find out more about the history, location and menu at touseyhouse.com.  Dig in!

Lucky’s Burger & Brew – Roswell, GA

When we visited Atlanta for a concert last weekend, we had a chance to have lunch with friends at Lucky’s.  I’ll tell you that after a warm afternoon baseball game, there was no better place in the northern ‘burbs to go!  A family-friendly sports bar with an ample menu and great atmosphere, we loved our visit.  Even mid-afternoon there was a 20-minute wait, but we managed to pass the time with a selection of local craft beers and a few tosses of cornhole bags on the back lawn.  There’s also a large “party pavilion” outside, complete with large-screen TV, that seats as many as 60 people!  You have the option of sitting in the restaurant or on the dog-friendly patio and we opted for the former.

IMG_0866

Surrounded by dog pictures and plenty of TV’s, we perused the large menu.  I was really impressed with the appetizer selection and ordered the fried pickles – my wife never turns them down!  Crispy and hot, they’re served with ranch or blue cheese for dipping and are some of the best I’ve had!  I’d have loved the fried pimento cheese bites and/or chili cheese tots, but I had a burger to get to.  The table ordered a variety of burgers and wings so we could get a good taste of the most important stuff.  The Memphis Blood Hound was cooked to order and topped with pickled red onion, cheddar cheese, bacon and sweet and spicy mango BBQ sauce.  It was awesome in every way and left me with no regrets on my choice.  The signature is the award-winning Georgia Dawg Pounder topped with a fried pimento cheese ball, red pepper jelly and mayo – whoa!  While I would have loved fresh-cut fries, both of their regular and sweet potato fries were pretty good.

An order of wings came out plump, hot and crispy.  They were smothered in medium sauce, but had a serious kick to them as you had a few!  They were really good though and I would definitely get them again as an appetizer or meal again.  The kids were thrilled with their burger and chicken fingers so you know it’s a place everyone can enjoy.  I saw other sandwiches and salads come from the kitchen and everything looked fresh and delicious.  Really, there’s a ton to try and we can’t wait to go back again!

Who doesn’t love great service, tasty food and a fun atmosphere?  You have three locations to visit in the Atlanta area and I suggest you get to one near you ASAP!  You can find out more about their locations, menu and party planning at luckysburgerandbrew.com.  Dig in!

La Piazza Cafe – Palm Coast, FL

On our first visit to Palm Coast, we had some great and not-so-great meals in the area.  La Piazza Cafe in European Village was the former and a rare treat of authentic Italian in a sea of chains in this resort area!  A quaint, kind of kitschy, restaurant with an old-world feel, La Piazza is a labor of love for the Lass Family.  Dine inside or alfresco under the ample covered patio and warm breeze.  You’ll love the atmosphere and the freedom to dress up or dress down for a relaxed dinner.

FullSizeRender 17.jpg

We were seated inside and made some selections from the ample wine list to start the night.  Given a long list of beautiful antipasti choices, we decided on the Antipasto Italiano.  This was a beautiful assortment of meats, cheeses, olives and dressed vegetables served  crostini.  Enough as a starter for four people or a meal for two, the selections were fresh and flavorful.  It’s worth noting here that our server was really friendly and attentive.  She took the time to explain specials, let us drink and chat at our own pace and kept the glasses full throughout dinner.  It really made for a pleasant experience and fun evening!

FullSizeRender 18.jpg

We enjoyed traditional caesar salads, perfect with optional anchovies, and then made our selections from the entrees.  There’s quite a list of pastas, traditional fare, steaks and fish, but it doesn’t feel crowded or fussy.  Our table devoured the traditional Bolognese and Carbonara – some of the best we’ve had.  I ordered the Fra Diavolo which was overflowing with fresh shrimp and calamari.  You can order the spice level from 1-10 and my 4 was plenty to give it a good zip.  The portions are huge though and a single pasta dish is nearly impossible to finish all on your own!

IMG_0635.JPG

Overall, it was a wonderful meal and a great evening with my family.  I definitely recommend making a stop or going out of your way to make a drive to enjoy a meal with the Lass Family.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!  You can find out more and take a look at their menu at lapiazzacafe.com.  Dig in!

386 – Palm Coast, FL

Nestled along the A1A on Florida’s northeast coast is a little hidden restaurant gem, at least to those that aren’t local, called 386.  Self-billed as “a fusion of fine dining”, you would never suspect the inventive and delicious menu that’s served inside the charming ramshackle building.  Having a reservation proved to be a wise move as it was packed on Friday night!  We walked through the gravel parking lot into the small rundown building unaware of the fantastic experience we were about to have.

Inside the door you are greeted by a lively crowded bar and then moved to a comfy dining room to the left.  Seating isn’t cramped, but they definitely pack in the people into their little spot.  We ordered wine and craft beer from an ample list and listened to a long selection of chef’s specials for the night.  How could we pass up the warm brie with brown sugar and balsamic served with parmesan crisps??  It was warm rich and creamy, without being overly sweet.  While the crisps were good, I thought the brie was much better on the warm bread they served as well.  We had a selection of salads next – the garden, the wedge and also the roasted beet special.  Red and golden beets with walnuts, goat cheese and vinaigrette tuned out to be a perfect choice!  Although my pet peeve is that it was served on a black plate – why mask those beautiful colors?!  I can tell you that I haven’t had better elsewhere though.

The menu has a ton of options from small plates to entrees and everything we saw coming out of the kitchen looked scrumptious.  Our table had a good sampling of entrees – Kansas City pork chop, herbed lamb chops, grilled ribeye and parmesan-crusted trout.  The meats were all healthy portions, cooked perfectly and served with simple, but tasty sides (think mom’s starch and veggie).  I ordered the trout, a huge portion crusted with parmesan bread crumbs and sage.  While the sage was a bit heavy, the fish was crisp and perfectly done.  Served with a simple risotto and green beans, it was all topped with a white wine butter sauce.

Dressed up or dressed down, a large group or an intimate dinner, you will love the inventive and well-cooked food at 386.  It’s clear that locals love this place as it was busy throughout the night!  Great service, comfortable surroundings and some of the best food in the area make this a must-visit if you’re in the area on vacation or if you live close by.  Find out more and check out the menu at threeeightsix.com.  Dig in!!

Tano Bistro – Loveland, OH

A night “out on the town” doesn’t always mean heading to downtown.  Tano Bistro is one of the most popular spots in Loveland and does a great job of making each trip feel both special and like you’re coming home every time.  Tucked in a storefront on Loveland Avenue, this cozy upscale restaurant has a bar, dining room and patio for al fresco evenings.  While the decor and feel is a combination of modern and historic charm, you’ll find guests dressed in everything from casual to formal.  And none of it ever feels out of place.

img_0538

Stopping in on the Friday before Valentine’s Day, we thought we’d try for a table without reservations (recommended on weekends).  While it was booked for the next few hours, the bar and high top tables are first-come first-serve.  Lucky for us we grabbed the last table for two.  There’s a great selection of beer, wine and cocktails, but nothing out-of-the-ordinary.  It’s hard to pass up the happy hour specials with $5 wine pours and dirty vodka martinis!  We took advantage of those prices and ordered the charcuterie to start our evening.  We had a beautiful assortment of fresh meat, cheeses, veggies and spreads.  It was a delicious plate and definitely enough for 2-4 people to share.  Our server was friendly and attentive and made sure we were taken care of all night – even though we were taking our time chatting the evening away!

The menu has a lot of small plates/starters and just the right amount of choices of salads, entrees and sandwiches.  We’ve had the eggplant pasta and bone-in pork chop before, both of which were delicious.  Given our huge charcuterie plate though, we settled on the Alabama BBQ sandwich and the mussels.  The sandwich, a spicy not-too-sweet pork bbq served on the perfectly crispy toasted white Texas toast, was a great portion served with salty potato wedges.  The ample bowl of mussels was served in a light broth of butter, garlic, chorizo, tomatoes, white wine and herbs.  I couldn’t get these eaten fast enough to dip the toasted ciabatta in that broth.  I love that dish anywhere, but they hit the nail on the head particularly well.

Open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, you have no excuses to not stop by and enjoy the service, atmosphere and locally sourced menu at one of Loveland’s best restaurants.  And you’ll be interested to know they have a Tano To-Go location in Loveland as well – awesome for delicious food you can warm at home!  You can find out all the details and menu on their website foodbytano.com.  Get there and dig in!!

Seven Lamps – Atlanta

On a recent business trip to Atlanta I was lucky to have an evening to catch up with friends in the bustling Buckhead area.  What a great evening we had at Seven Lamps!  Co-owner and Chef Drew Van Leuvan has developed a delicious menu of craft food and cocktails served in a warm comfortable atmosphere.  On an unseasonable warm evening we shared a communal table outside near the warm gas fire pit.  Both inside and out feel casual yet refined – you could find yourself here for a special occasion or any weekday lunch or dinner.

While we ordered wine and local beer from Creature Comforts in Athens, GA we were brought complimentary house pickled vegetables and whipped creme fraiche.  The vinegary and crunchy combo with rich smooth creme paired well with our hoppy IPA’s.  Scanning the menu, there’s a beautiful selection of oysters and charcuterie as starters.  With limited time, we all decided to dive right into dinner though.  What I love about the menu is that there are endless combos of starters, small plates and entrees.  Whether drinks and snacks, mains-only or full-on courses, you can find the perfect meal for your night out.

I ordered the Idaho Potato Gnocchi which were buttery pillows complimented by seasonal mushrooms and asiago cheese.  If it’s possible for a dish to be insanely rich and light and delicate at the same time, this is it.  We also ordered the Tortellini which was filled with a rich combination of braised beef and mustard greens.  Served in a light sauce and with creamed parsnip and ricotta, this beautiful pasta was a treat from some of the more traditional fare you find in other establishments.  We ordered dinner portions of both pasta dishes and they were generous without being overboard.  There is a lunch portion available for all pastas as well.  Finally, we ordered the Springer Mountain Chicken Breast, a wood-grilled preparation served on cheddar grits with roasted baby carrots and a dijon vinaigrette.  It was perfectly cooked and a delicious take on roasted chicken.

We loved our experience here – from the food to the atmosphere to the service, all made for a perfect al fresco night in Buckhead.  I’m dying to come back for the monkfish or the ridiculously large pork chop we saw at the table next to us.  I highly suggest adding Seven Lamps to your list of must-eats in Atlanta.  Chef, you’ve outdone yourself with this place!  Find out more and view the full menu at sevenlampsatl.com.

Dante – Cleveland, OH

I wasn’t thrilled to be away from home on my birthday, but a scheduled dinner with clients at Dante in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland made it one for the ages!  Tucked into an old bank on a quiet street, this beautiful little spot is perfect for a special night, a business dinner or everyday night out.  The warm atmosphere is cozy and comfortable with plenty of seating and a short bar for cocktails and starters.

Being with a group, we were luck to sample a few things to start our evening.  The goat cheese tartlets with cranberry orange chutney were creamy and rich with the right balance of sweet.  Crispy calamari and shrimp were given a little kick tossed with spicy mayo.  It was a good take on traditional calamari you might find anywhere else.  The highlight was absolutely the charcuterie plate.  A huge portion of house-made salumi, terrine, mortadella, duck confit and chicken liver pate was accompanied by bacon onion jam and various chutneys and fruit.  You can take a look at their curing room in the old vault and see Chef Dante’s passion in the variety and beauty of his charcuterie.

The well-curated menu has a lovely selection of vegetables, meats, pasta and seafood.  Portion sizes are adjustable based on your preference, but we stuck to dinner portions for tonight.  Both the beef cheek and ribeye were beautifully cooked and came dressed with vegetables.  The salmon was a work of art worthy of praise for taste and presentation.  The creamy broccoli risotto was also noted as delicious.  My dinner was the venison osso bucco with celery root and an apple donut (apple ring battered and deep fried).  It was rich, tender and a wonderful balance of flavor and texture.  You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone cook venison better.

fullsizerender

Overall, it was a perfect dinner in every way.  With an ample wine list, craft cocktails and great beer selection (try the Italian peppercorn IPA) there is plenty to keep your interest throughout the night.  The friendly and knowledgeable staff also made it a great night out.  Compliments to Chef Dante Boccuzzi for creating this gem in Tremont.  And thank you for making my “birthday dinner” (that no one knew about) really special!  You can find out more about the location and view their full menu at dantetremont.com.

B Spot – Strongsville, OH

There are a lot of places to get a burger around town, but few reach the grand height of deliciousness as Michael Symon’s B Spot!  In a world of frozen patties and fast-minded service, B Spot stands out for their fresh ground burgers, inventive topping combinations and homemade sauces.  On a recent trip to Cleveland for business I had my first taste of B Spot while having lunch with my sister.

fullsizerender-2

In a busy strip mall you’ll find the warm and inviting atmosphere of B Spot.  It’s decorated with wood and metal and enough TV’s for sports, but not an overwhelming bar feel.  It was busy for a late Sunday lunch, but it’s the holidays and we were near the mall so I expected as such.  I’ve heard it’s busy like this all the time though!  We were seated and immediately greeted by friendly staff.  There’s an ample craft beer selection and a list of made-to-order milkshakes that can be amped up with booze if you so choose – hello!!  I had a blonde ale from Sibling Revelry since it’s a friend’s friend’s new brewery, an excellent choice I might say!

fullsizerender

The place is known for their burgers, but there was a good menu with choices like house-made bratwurst and bologna sandwiches.  I settled on the Fun Guy – sautéed mushrooms and onions and topped with cheese.  My sister had the Fat Doug with pastrami, cole slaw and swiss.  Both were perfectly cooked to order, extremely juicy and had just the right ratio of meat-to-bun-to-toppings that let you get a tasty bite of everything every time!  I love when you can really enjoy a burger without it all falling apart and these hit the nail on the head.  I thought the size was perfect, but you can add a patty if you’re tank is running a little on empty.  We split the rosemary fries which was enough for two to share.  Salty, crispy and perfumed with herbs, they were excellent and not the typical disappointing fries you get in most places.

fullsizerender-3

You can enhance all of the food with 6 different signature sauces at your table – I love the coffee BBQ and the mustardy relish!  Oh, did I mention there’s a house-made pickle bar??  Honestly, everything was done right here and the attention to detail was really refreshing considering they’re growing quickly.  With 8 locations in Ohio, Detroit and Indianapolis you have no reason to not seek one out and have a great lunch or dinner.  I can’t wait for a chance to try the New School bologna sandwich and a side of pork cracklings!!  Thanks Michael, for putting the ingredients first and keeping the burger game real in middle America!!  You can check out their website here for menu and locations bspotburgers.com. Dig in!

SuperChef’s – Gahanna, OH

Sunday morning screams for amazing breakfast or brunch!  And when we’re not at home, it’s always fun to check out somewhere new and inventive.  On our recent trip to the Columbus, OH area for some Christmas shopping, we decided to check out SuperChef’s Breakfast & More in Gahanna.  Located just east of the I-270 loop, this strip mall eatery did not disappoint.  I’ll admit the exterior with bright graphics and large pictures of food reminded me of an oversized Chinese menu in a mall food court, but it’s all part of the schtick for this comics-themed brunch spot.

A lively place with plenty of seating packed into a tight spot, there is an overabundance of energy in the morning with the perfect backdrop of conversation and the aromas of coffee and syrup.  A large wall in the rear of the restaurant is covered with comic book covers and characters which were complimented by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles t-shirts the staff were wearing.  After a short wait we perused the menu choices with amazing “bam-kapow” comic book takes on traditional breakfast fare.  Think of green waffles with bacon, egg and cheese – that’s “The Hulk”.

We sipped strong coffee and then dug into our choices, all of which were really good.  Breakfast pizza was a thin chewy crust with eggs, cheese, bacon, house-made sausage, tomato and parsley.  I had a tasty croissant sandwich made with sausage (a spicy chorizo-like breakfast patty), eggs, cheese and mustard vinaigrette dressed greens.  What a perfect addition to cut through the fatty richness of the rest of the sandwich!  The omelets were hefty and full of fresh ingredients.  Most dishes are served with chunky hash browns browned with topped with a dollop of spicy butter – I know, genius idea!

img_0356

With another location in downtown Columbus, I would recommend trying this place out for a great brunch any day of the week.  The waffle and pancake combinations looked ridiculous – wings & waffles or blueberry pancakes with lemon buttercream are just a few of the choices!  Add those choices to a great cup of strong coffee and really good service and you’ll see why there was a wait to get in.  You can read their story and check out the breakfast and lunch menus at mysuperchefs.com.  Dig in!!