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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!