Slymans in Cleveland, Ohio

The sandwiches at Slymans resemble a greater-than math symbol. Incredible amounts of deli meat between two slices of fatty, crispy rye.

Often times, at home or at a sub-par deli, pastrami is in need of huge dollops of condiments to mask bone dry deli meats.

Ask for a corned beef and pastrami off the grill from Slymans. It’s as juicy as a perfectly cooked steak, and the main culprit for this perfect concoction is the fatty sometimes lean pastrami.

Juices flow with each bite. In a sense of personal euphoria, pastrami juice had been dripping without my knowledge over my Banana Republic jeans like a faucet leak.

It’s the only time to look good among strangers tackling a sandwich like a competitive eater.

No one will judge. That’s because no one is looking. To eat any sandwich at Slymans requires precision and focus.

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Mama Santa’s in Cleveland, Ohio

There aren’t enough “No Reservations” episodes to accurately explain the beauty of freshly pasta made by a Sicilian woman who’s been doing it for over 40 years. Eating that woman’s pasta is an experience that you have to do at least once.

We visited Mama Santa’s in Little Italy, Cleveland, Ohio. For such a “little” Italy, there’s an exciting array of sit down Italian restaurants. Problem is that for lunch most are not open. We made two great decisions today for lunch. We avoided the chic and trendy deli Presti, and we stumbled upon a gem in Mama Santa’s.

The story of its owner, Guido (Guy) Scaffidi, is legendary. Guy served in the Italian Navy. Was captured and suffered in a Nazi prison camp. Moved to America. Didn’t know how to cook, not even a meatball. Bought the place in Little Italy. Let his mother in law, Mama Santa, cook the recipes she brought over from Sicily. And what you have now is a Cleveland institution, around since 1961.

Come to Mama Santa’s for the pasta. Specifically, you’d be remised if you failed to order the meatballs in marinara. Soft, succulent meatballs. Fresh, made from scratch pasta noodles with a little textual bite. The meat sauce runny, yet firm. The pickiest eater eats the plate, licks the plate, calls it a day.

Like any great restaurant, Mama Santa’s has been recognized most recently by City Search Cleveland. But let’s be honest here. As a foodie, as a stereotypical preppy food lover, I had never eaten fresh pasta. Just not readily available in the Toledo region. I’ve now had fresh pasta. Where do I stand in line?12079323_10156172623940164_209809314522336306_n

Zingerman’s. What. An. Amazing. Deli.

If Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor found its way to Northwest Ohio, it would be rightfully deemed as the best deli hands down in the region. Yes, even better than a Whole Foods in West Toledo. Food and Wine magazine counts Zingerman’s in the top 25 of food markets worldwide. Nuff said.

The first thing you’ll notice after entering Zingerman’s are either huge loafs of fresh bread a few giant steps above Panera Bread’s quality, or beautiful slabs of pristinely orange cold smoked salmon. It’s an equivalent to Marilyn Monroe standing on a vent with her skirt blowing up.

Then, there’re extremely alluring cold cuts and cheeses: Duck salami, at least six different types of uncut bacon, and rare cheeses like a queso oveja negra (ewe’s milk cheese).

Their sandwiches, however, are where Zingerman’s stakes a culinary claim to excellence. Choose from a selection of the following: corned beef, beef (think roast beef), pastrami, chicken, pork, turkey, veggie, and seafood (salmon lox).

We ordered #48, Binny’s Brooklyn Reuben, with Zingerman’s pastrami, real swiss cheese, crunchy sauerkraut and Russian dressing (thousand islandish) on grilled pumpernickel bread.

The pastrami was both fatty and juicy, while the pumpernickel tasted fresh and heavy as it always should be. The sandwich cost $18.50. That’s right, almost 20 bucks for a deli sandwich.

Zingerman’s addresses this concern on their web site. In a nutshell, they would rather raise prices than skimp on portion sizes and ingredient quality. What they’re trying to advocate is an uncompromising view toward food.

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My Piada

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I ate at an upscale fast food restaurant named Piada Italian Street Food on Central and Secor. You might recall the area as once partly occupied by a friendly neighborhood bar, Arnie’s, that catered to promiscuous men who’d be guaranteed a woman if their connections (and wallets) were true.

Piada’s is an Italian version of Chipotle. A lot of the same methodology. Start on the right hand side. Pick between a tascas (flat bread), piada (a glorified wrap), or pasta. I chose the familiar wrap.

A tortilla like wrap is heated up on a griddle. Then, I picked the steak piada that came with Marinated steak, spicy diavolo sauce, chopped romaine, shredded parmesan, and creamy parmesan drizzle.

The finished product reminded me of Chipotle, and that’s the point. My piada, loaded with ingredients, looked more like a burrito than any wrap I’ve ever eaten.

Piada’s is a trendy establishment in the same vein as Chipotle or Panera Bread. Americans in all 50 states are craving fast food, but the type that focuses on freshness and quality, anything a step above Subway or Burger King ingredients.

If you can soak up the chic ambiance and direct emotional play on an upscale uber popular Mexican eatery, Piada’s is a safe, familiar option.

Web Site: http://mypiada.com/

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Sunrise Skillet: A Classic Gem

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Sunrise Skillet is a breakfast restaurant that just opened in South Toledo four months ago and is quickly gaining city wide acclaim. When a friend and I visited this breakfast gem, there was a lot to choose from: classics, made with fresh ingredients, like omelets, pancakes, eggs and toast, even grilled cheeses.

And we made sure to order their coffee. The best coffee at a breakfast place in town.

I settled on the build your own skillet. I picked what turned out to be perfectly spiced andouille sausage, crisp bacon, and mushrooms with a base of melted cheese, potatoes, and two over easy eggs. I hoped the egg yolks would ooze onto the other ingredients. They did. What a perfect combination.

My friend ordered a cheesy all meat omelet, beautiful hash browns, and an English muffin. Our breakfast came out to a mere 16 dollars. That means Sunrise Skillet’s food is not only robust and tasty, but moderately priced and affordable.

Here’s one of Sunrise Skillet’s mottos: “we love to make coffee for the city that loves it.” At Sunrise, expect great coffee, wholesome food, in a mom and pop environment ideal for everyone.

Address: 1855 S Reynolds Rd (Reynolds and Glendale Ave by Olive Garden)

Hours: 7am to 2pm

Visit Sunrise Skillet on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sunrise-Skillet/1008070629208

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First for Toledo: Crawfish Boil

David of David’s Cajun is an amateur chef obsessed with Louisiana cuisine. He is the man who holds regular Cajun cuisine inspired events. This time he ordered 60 pounds of fresh crawfish; shipped to Toledo from a provider in Louisiana.

At the Moxie on Adams St, 30 loyalists dined on gumbo as David sported a reassuring shirt as we waited for our taste of crustacean: Keep Calm and Eat Gumbo.

The food itself was far from spicy, so might not taste to a southerner like authentic cuisine. But David’s work is an obsession, a product of inspiration. Some of the people in attendance had never seen fresh, living crawfish in their lives.

People like this only eat crawfish when David invites them over. Perhaps once a year, if lucky. Taste, then, becomes secondary to the overall experience.

David smokes pork belly and tasso with hickory wood in a smoker he built from scratch. He’ll take the leftover live crawfish (30 pounds or so), boil them up, and individually remove all the tail meat and freeze it for a future gumbo.

Those who attended would hire him as their personal chef, or at least inquire about the potential for BFF compatibility. Expect more Cajun inspired dinners in the future at The Moxie.

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Sushi Rumble

When Kengo Sushi opened a few months back, they had a stranglehold on the sushi demand in downtown Toledo. However, in two weeks, a Toledo City Paper favorite, Kyota Ka, will open for lunch at 400 Madison Ave. Kengo currently offers dinner only. When these two sushi joints figure out money can be made during both lunch and dinner, an all-out sushi brawl is fixing to happen.

Chef Joe of Kyota remains cool and collected throughout this brew ha-ha. His restaurant will sit double the capacity of what Kengo has. Although his menu will be trimmed down, since Kyota will serve just lunch, expect to see Korean bento boxes on the menu. One complaint about Kengo is the lack of a go to menu item guaranteed to fill one up.

The sushi itself, according to Chef Joe, will be less expensive in terms of money. Yet, as far as quality goes, Chef Joe contends that the sushi Kengo gets is from the same provider (another local chef mentioned that all sushi places in Toledo get their sushi from the same source).

Kengo, as the theory goes, charges more than most Toledo area sushi restaurants. Chef Joe explained how his BlueFin Otoro (tuna) is $5.25 apiece. Kengo charges 12 dollars for two pieces. Moreover, Kengo’s portions are small and elegant. Kyota slices a bigger, heartier portion.

From Chef Joe’s mouth, expect Kyota Ka to open in downtown Toledo by month’s end. For weeks, Kengo were planning to open for lunch. Not so fast.