Tag Archives: Cleveland

What is Dyngus Day?

PolandHappy Dyngus Day! Dyngus Day (Easter Monday – from the Polish Śmigus-dyngus ) is huge celebration in Cleveland (music automatically plays) and throughout Polish American communities, especially in Buffalo, New York . Typical Dyngus Day celebrations include pierogies, polka, free-flowing krupnik, a parade and all things Polish. Similar celebrations occur. Food and drinks are of course a focus, but so are other traditions – like attempting to soak the neighborhood girls with water and swatting them with pussy willows (yikes!). Traditionally, the girls retaliated by doing the same to the boys on Tuesday, but nowadays the retaliation occurs on the same day (how could you wait until the next day anyway?) If you are not in the area of a Dyngus Day celebration, why not celebrate with some pierogies, Bigos (Hunter’s) Stew, Haluski and Polish sausage.

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Dyngus Day Parade in Cleveland by lgbeebe2

 

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Pastry Post-Doc: Dobos Torte at Farkas Pastry Shoppe in Cleveland

hungaryflagWe have recently realized that we are big fans of Dobos Torte, a classic Hungarian cake composed of thin layers of cake and chocolate. After having a supremely delicious Dobos Torte at Ovy Bakery in Skokie, we were pleased to find out that there was a bakery that specializes in Dobos Torte right in our neck of the woods – Farkas Pastry Shoppe (2700 Lorain Ave., Cleveland, OH). Farkas is an old-school Cleveland institution that has been around for 50 years, not really changing much in the process (which in terms of a bakery is a good thing!). Farkas specializes in Hungarian and Eastern European cakes and sweets including Esterházy Torte (an almond and apricot layered cake), Nut Rolls, and Linzer Tortes. Another great pick at Farkas is the Kréme, a Hungarian take on a Napoleon, which is vanilla creme between two sheets of puff pastry.

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However, we were there specifically for the Dobos Torte (pictured above), so we made a beeline to the cakes. There is a special case at Farkas specifically for cakes – and you can get either a whole or half Dobos Torte ($25 for a whole). We bought a half cake to bring to a friend’s house, and with 5 pre-cut slices, it was perfectly portioned for the occasion. The Dobos Torte was delicious, and a little different from the traditional formulation since it had a marzipan top layer instead of caramel. The cake was a big hit at dinner – and we were impressed by the flavors as well as the expertly even layers. If you haven’t tried Hungarian pastries or cakes yet, Dobos Torte is a perfect introduction!

DobosSlice

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La Loma: Authentic tacos in Akron

Mexico FlagThe main thing we miss about moving away from Chicago is proliferation of taquerias there – you could pretty much throw a stone and hit a taqueria on every corner. Sadly, we had pretty much given up on the taqueria-style Mexican food in the area, but we found a shining beacon of hope in the unlikeliest of places – Akron. It’s true – La Loma Taqueria (459 Darrow Rd, Akron, OH 44305) in Akron makes some of the best al pastor this side of Clark street. La Loma is located in a nondescript strip mall on the outskirts of Akron, a pretty unlikely location for crazy delicious and authentic tacos.

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What led us to La Loma were reports of a trompo in this location – the gyro-esque spit that is required to make a proper al pastor taco. Surely enough, when we entered the taqueria we were greeted by the fully loaded trompo! In terms of tacos La Loma delivers on value and variety. At a very reasonable $1.50 each, it is feasible to try all of the meat options: carne asada, barbacoa, chorizo, chicken or tongue. We tried both al pastor and chorizo, our go-to taqueria order. Other options available with the same meats include burritos, tortas on homemade telera bread, quesadilla, flautas, sopes and tamales. LaLomaPastor - Copy

The tacos were the real deal – served on small, fresh corn tortillas, they were topped with the requisite onion and cilantro. Plus, there was a healthy slice of fresh pineapple – the holy grail of al pastor tacos – which is sometimes left off at other taquerias. The pork was spicy and the outside was well-charred, like we prefer. As a plus, there is even an impeccably clean store attached to the taqueria selling a variety of Mexican and other Latin American foods and sundries. We snagged some dried guajillo peppers and Mexican cinnamon sticks, staples we needed for recipe production. La Loma’s one flaw is that it is located a bit of a drive from where we live. However, we know we will be back when the inevitable, insatiable taco craving hits.

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Farm to Table at Spice Kitchen + Bar in Cleveland

We have noticed a proliferation of small plates places serving globally-inspired dishes with local ingredients – and we are excited to find a local exemplar of this trend in Spice Kitchen + Bar (5800 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland, OH) in the emerging foodie neighborhood of Detroit-Shoreway/Gordon Square in Cleveland. Spice Kitchen is located in an old corner building with wooden floors, large windows, a vintage bar and several rooms (some with exposed brick) forming the dining space. We love the old-school atmosphere.

Spice

Spice Kitchen by Edsel Little

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Rincon Criollo: A Taste of Puerto Rico in Cleveland

Flag of Puerto RicoRincon Criollo (6504 Detroit Ave, Cleveland, OH) reminds us of home. This kind of restaurant serving Latin American or Caribbean food can be found in nearly every neighborhood in Chicago, so we felt right at home in this Cleveland mom and pop place. The food at Rincon Criollo is Puerto Rican, and it serves a menu of island favorites at reasonable prices. We arrived on a Friday night (note that they close at 8 PM) and the place was full of families and couples ordering takeout. The menu focuses on meat-heavy dishes like roast pork, roast chicken, beef stew and pork chops with sides of rice and beans (all less than $10). Rounding out the menu is a selection of sandwiches and a huge variety of traditional sides including maduros and tostones (fried savory or sweet plantains).

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Katerina’s Pupuseria in Cleveland

salvadorOne of our favorite carb & filling combos is the Salvadorean pupusa, which just may be one of the ultimate comfort foods. Katerina’s Pupuseria (1409 Brookpark Rd., Cleveland, OH) is certainly located off the beaten path, and it seems to do double duty as a banquet hall and a bar. There is even a pool table, which was empty when we got there at 1 PM, probably a little before typical party time. The inside is very cute, filled with little seating coves, decorative blue and yellow tiles and Salvadorean trinkets.

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Of course we had to order the pupusas (which were the bulk of the menu), our favorite little masa pockets filled with tasty fillings (including chicken, cheese, garlic, pork and zucchini). We each tried different pupusa varieties, L with her favorite loroco flowers and M with pork. The pupusas were only 2 dollars each and we found 2 apiece to be more than filling.  The pupusas were tender and tasty and the fillings were generous. And of course who could forget the vinegary curtido slaw, necessary to give the pupusas a little kick.

pupusakaterinaThis was also our first time trying Salvadorean horchata, which is different than the Mexican version, and is made from morro seeds, instead of rice. It reminded us a bit more of the nut-based Spanish horchata instead of the Mexican rice-based version. The pupusas and horchata were the perfect cheap lunch and had us remembering some of our favorite classic meals in Chicago. definitely make a stop at Katerina’s for pupusas, and maybe even a game of pool.

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The Black Pig: Snout to Tail eating in Cleveland

There is nothing M loves more than well-prepared pork and charcuterie, and Black Pig (2801 Bridge Avenue, Cleveland) has both in spades. The logo for the Black Pig is a gigantic, portly swine, and this place definitely takes its pig seriously. The restaurant is tucked into a restored Victorian home on a quiet corner of Ohio City, where they relocated in early 2015. The inside of Black Pig is casual and comfortable, featuring the exposed brick of the old house and lots of windows.

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The menu at Black Pig puts its focus on classic American dishes made with local ingredients, as well as a curated selection of craft brews and unique cocktails. The menu is divided into small plates and entrees, a section called “the weekly pig” and a rotating menu of freshly-made pasta. Recently, they even rolled out a special 3-course pasta tasting (we will have to come back for that). Though pork-centric, there are also a myriad of vegetarian and fish options. We started out with the charcuterie plate, with all house-made meats (including patê, sausage and prosciutto) and pickles (pictured above), as well as cheese plate featuring cheeses from the Midwest. We selected a few of the appetizers to share: Brussels sprouts and fingerling potatoes. The roast fingerling potatoes, drenched in lemon and Parmesan, were particularly delicious (below).

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For entrees, we chose off the Weekly Pig menu, which featured classic pork preparations, including: Pork Collar, schnitzel, Sausage and cabbage, and a pork chop. M ordered the Pork chop over corn salsa and L got the short ribs, served with hush puppies, roasted beans and chili peppers (below). Both pork dishes were extremely successful: the pork chop was juicy and tender (which is difficult to do for pork chops), and the short ribs, in a balsamic reduction, were fork-tender and extremely flavorful. Creative desserts like an almond financier cake rounded out the menu. Black Pig is a great place for a date night or special occasion, though you will feel welcome for a casual night out, too. The menu at the Black Pig changes with the seasons, so there is always something new to try.

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Barroco arepas and more in Cleveland

colombiaWe are recently back from NYC, and had a hankering for some arepas. Fortunately, Cleveland has a self-proclaimed areperiaBarroco (12906 Madison Ave Lakewood, Ohio ). We visited Barroco on an unseasonably warm day, which meant we were able to enjoy the outdoor patio alongside our starchy treats. We were not disappointed, the simple but bright patio was a great place to enjoy some juice or a cerveza on a nice day. By the way, did we mention that Barroco is BYOB? However, even if you sit inside, you are in for a visual treat – the walls are covered with murals, twinkle lights, photographs and the accumulated scrawlings of other customers.

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The menu is an interesting mix of Colombian and other South American influences, and there is something for everyone (even vegetarians). You can get a starter of shrimp ceviche ($11) or opt for the larger “picado” platter which is an assortment of pork, chorizo, yuca and ($40). For a traditional Colombian meal – you can get the national dish of sausage, rice and beans, Bandeja Paisa ($19). However, we were in the mood for the specialty of the house – arepas ($12 each) – of which there were both traditional and more avant-garde versions. For example, you can order a arepa with Bolognese sauce or buffalo chicken. We got two kinds of arepa in the more traditional vein: first the Reina Pepiada – Grilled chicken breast with avocado, red peppers and feta cheese; and next the Ropa Vieja – braised beef in tomato sauce with black beans, feta and mozzarella.

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The arepas were freshly made from white corn into neat squares and generously filled (as you can see above). We appreciated that the masa was made in-house and you could really taste the difference. In terms of fillings, the ropa vieja was particularly delicious and comforting.  We also shared a side of guacamole with plantain chips, and each arepa came with a size of expertly fried sweet plantains (did someone say plantain?). Once spring rolls around again we hope to give Barroco’s outdoor patio a visit again soon. In the meantime, we will enjoy exploring the quirky interior while we get our arepa fix.

Barroco

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Phusion Cafe brings Taiwanese Cuisine to Cleveland

taiwanPhusion Cafe (3030 W. Superior Ave, Cleveland) is where we ended up instead when we thought we had arrived at Superior Pho. The first time we turned around in confusion, but this time we were excited to give the only place for Taiwanese food in Cleveland a try. If you enter from the back parking lot you will be greeted by the jumble of signs below. Phusion’s location in the lobby of a mini mall is not necessarily the most atmospheric, but don’t let that (or the vague name) dissuade you from some amazing Taiwanese food!

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The menu at Phusion has a large selection of typical some American-Chinese favorites like Egg rolls and General Tso’s chicken, but we made a beeline for the selection of more unique Taiwanese dishes. The server was more than happy to describe the Taiwanese dishes and offer recommendations. We were interested by the unique Taiwanese dishes including Hakka-style pork and squid ($12.95) and the Hakka-style tofu ($10.95) along with perhaps the most famous Taiwanese dish, Three Cups Chicken ($12.95). To start off, our server recommended the salt and pepper chicken, we got an appetizer portion, though you can also get it as a full sized entree. M ordered the ginger beef ($12.95) and L got the cold peanut and sesame noodles ($6.95). These cold noodles were the first Taiwanese dish we ever had, all the way back in Minneapolis, so seeing them again on the menu made us feel nostalgic.

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We only waited a short time for our food even though the dining room was pretty full with groups of college kids chatting and sipping on bubble tea. The salt and pepper chicken was crunchy, not greasy and actually consisted of high quality chicken (kind of the opposite of what we usually expect from popcorn chicken). The beef in the ginger beef dish was tender and flavorful, and there were actually long strips of ginger root throughout (we love ginger so this is a major plus). However, the favorite of the night was the delicious cold noodle dish topped with cucumber. The noodles were rich and savory, and the mix of peanut and sesame made for an incredible sauce. We could eat this every day!

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And, yes, they have bubble tea! Not only that, it is made with Ten Ren Tea, a brand known for their high-quality leaves. Has anyone tried the bubble tea there yet? Phusion Cafe makes an excellent addition to an area where Taiwanese food is lacking, and delivers with authentic Taiwanese flavors. Our visit definitely made us want to duplicate that sesame and peanut noodle recipe at home.

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Vero Pizza Napoletana in Cleveland

ItalyDespite being Italian, both eaters are paridoxically not much into going out for pizza. Maybe this is because so much of it is mediocre? But when we do go for pizza, we either do Neapolitan-style of Chicago-style deep-dish (Yes, Chicago-style IS pizza). So when we heard about Vero Pizza Napoletana (12421 Cedar Rd, Cleveland Heights, OH) and the accolades heaped on it and its owner Marc-Aurele Buholzer we were cautiously excited. The focus here is on Neapolitan pizzas cooked in authentic 900° wood-fire oven (inside which a pizza is cooked in only 90 seconds). Vero’s interior is sleek and simple, and has two stories – but even so, it is not a huge place. Another feature of the second floor is that you can look right into the kitchen and see the oven and pizzaiolo at work, which is pretty cool.

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The only thing on Vero’s menu is basically pizza (10″ pizzas that serve one, with a little to spare), which we always appreciate in a pizza place. The varieties available at Vero run the gamut from classic to creative ad include pizzas with and without red sauce – the Blanca features mozzarella, basil and garlic (and no red sauce). The inventive Milk ‘n’ Honey is topped with a farm egg (which you can also add to other pizzas for $2) and wild honey. For those feeling peckish, you can get a local cheese platter, olives or charcuterie to start off your meal.

PizzaMargheritaFirst, we selected one of our favorite pizzas, the stalwart Margherita – tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella – the classic by which we judge almost any pizzeria. Next, we opted for the “Capua” variety which was topped with prosciutto, arugula and Parmesan cheese. The pizzas arrived quickly, as advertised. The pies initially come out uncut and the server will cut them for you into whatever configuration you may wish. The traditional way to eat this kind of pizza is by knife and fork anyway. Overall, the topping were fresh, generous and uniformly excellent, and the sauce was the perfect consistency. The crust was a little thicker than Neapolitan pies might be, but we don’t have any complaints. PizzaPro

The hype behind Vero’s fresh and authentic pizzas turned out to be warranted, as evidenced by the fact that we practically inhaled our pizzas. We also appreciated Vero’s commitment to the art of Neapolitan pizza. For example, in addition to the authentic oven of course, Vero doesn’t deliver pizzas and instead focuses on having the in-person Neapolitan experience. This makes perfect sense, since this kind of pizza really doesn’t taste the same unless you are eating it fresh out of the oven. We would definitely go back for another pizza fix soon, especially since we are so far from our deep-dish alternatives. As if that wasn’t enough, the gelato in the front counter looked pretty good, too.VeroInterior

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Celebrate National Pierogi Day in Cleveland

PolandDumpling lovers rejoice: today is National Pierogi(e) Day! Pierogi can be found anywhere with a sizable Polish popular throughout the US and Canada, especially in the Midwest. Now living in Cleveland, I realize that this town may be even crazier about pierogi than Chicago. Here, the filled Polish dumpling can be found in dozens of frozen varieties in every grocery story and is a popular take-out and restaurant menu item. Michael Symon’s restaurant Lola even has an upscale beef cheek and mushroom version as an appetizer. So where do you go? Here are the top 9 places to get pierogi in Cleveland. One of our favorite places for Pierogi is the Pierogi Palace inside the West Side Market – take your pick of varieties! Or if you are feeling ambitions, make your own pierogi with meat, cheese and potato (my favorite combo), mushroom or even blueberry!

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Pierogi in the West Side Market by PBS Newshour

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Puerto Rican specialties at Campus Grille in Berea

Flag of Puerto RicoPretty much the last place we expected to find awesome mofongo was in a small town outside of Cleveland, named “Campus Grille,” but we did! Campus Grille (10 Seminary St, Berea, OH 44017)  is hiding in plain site with a nondescript name and facade in the small town of Berea, near the campus of Baldwin Wallace University. We came here specifically for one of our favorite Puerto-Rican dishes, mofongo, but were pleased to find a varied Caribbean menu. Campus Grille is a casual place, which seemed to be popular with college kids and families alike. You place orders at the counter and then they are delivered to your table.

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We knew we had to order the mofongo since we had heard so much about it, and once we saw the pilón (wooden mortar and pestle) for making mofongo we knew it was going to be good! We ordered a roast pork mofongo ($11.50 – other options include plain, chicken, beef or shrimp), and the house special, coco tropical ($9.50), which is roast chicken over a bed of coconut rice and spicy pineapple chutney, and a side orders tostones – fried plantains ($3.69). Also on the menu are beef stew (carne guisada), a cubano sandwich, rotisserie chicken, and even a vegetarian plate. If you are there for lunch, the specials seemed like an amazing deal at $6.

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With our Jarritos fruit sodas in hand we waited only a short while for the food to arrive (there were a few tables outside, too). Both dishes were excellent, and the proportions were huge. The mofongo was excellent, and the pork was tender and well spiced, the plantain portion was flavorful and garlicky, and not mushy, which is how we like our mofongo. The coco tropical was delicious, the rotisserie chicken was tender and flavorful, and it would be perfect for those with something a bit more sweet in mind. I think Campus Grille knows that you probably aren’t going to finish your entrée, because they serve everything in round foil to-go containers from the start, and if you don’t finish you can get the plastic lid at the counter. I can see how some people would not like that, but we thought it was kind of genius.CampusGrille3

Unfortunately, we were not up for dessert, but the flan and tres leches cake looked pretty good, too. We really enjoyed our meal at Campus Grille, it had a lot going for it: great pork, Goya products for sale by the counter and Prince Royce on the radio! Most importantly, this was some of the best mofongo we have had outside of Puerto Rico. We were so happy to have found Campus Grille, and are excited to explore more Puerto Rican food in Cleveland. Do you have any recommendations for us?

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Superior Pho in Cleveland lives up to its name

vietnamThe first time we attempted to go to Superior Pho (3030 Superior Avenue, Cleveland, OH), we couldn’t find it! Superior Pho is located in a tiny mall with other Asian restaurants and businesses. However, we didn’t know that, so when we walked into the front entrance of what we thought was the right address, we promptly turned around when we arrived in the lobby of another restaurant. However, stay heartened, just park in the back when you turn off of east 30th street and Superior Pho will be the first restaurant you encounter from the back entrance.

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Superior Pho is a simple place with a few tables and tvs in the corners. We arrived for dinner at about 6 pm, and the place was packed – it closes at 8, so keep that in mind. To start off, we ordered mango bubble tea and Vietnamese coffee, cà phê đá, which was served with an individual drip filter (cà phê phin) – the first time we had ever seen it served this way – though it is apparently the authentic way to do things. Thankfully, the menu at Superior Pho was not as enormous at other Vietnamese restaurants, which made it easier to actually settle on a dish. Along with pho and vermicelli dihes, there was a single banh mi sandwich and a well-curated selection of house specialties including Bò lúc lắc (beef salad) and Bò bía (rice paper rolls with Chinese sausage).SPho3

The main thing to order at Superior Pho is obviously pho, the iconic Vietnamese soup. There were 14 pho permutations you could order by number including: brisket, flank steak, meatball, chicken or even veggie (Large: $8.95 / Small: $7.95). We ordered a classic Beef Pho with flank steak. We always want to try a second dish at the restaurant, so I went for one of my favorite Bún noodle dishes Bún thịt nướng ($9.50) vermicelli with grilled pork. Our entrees were brought out in short order – and we were instantly impressed, everything was fresh and tasty. The pho broth was flavorful and heavily spiced with scallion, basil and cinnamon, and the beef was of very high quality. The large size was more than enough to share, and for only a dollar more than the small, why not? The vermicelli dish was of similar high quality, with the perfect mix of fresh veggies, spice and fish sauce.

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Much like Chicago (and anywhere else) there is a bit of a turf war between restaurants and fans on who has the best Pho in town. And while we haven’t sampled enough places to make a definitive decision about the best pho in Cleveland, we are definitely fans of Superior Pho. This was some of the best pho we ever had, and could certainly hold its own against any we had tried in Chicago. We look forward to enjoying more Superior Pho in the future, especially as a tonic for the impending cold weather.

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The best ice cream in Cleveland

Before moving here, we had no idea that Cleveland was such a big ice cream town. There are more ice cream places in Cleveland than there are doughnut shops in Chicago (at least it seems like it). We ate at a variety of ice cream places around town to find our favorite, and of course “best” is subjective, but we think we have landed on a winner: Mitchell’s. We fell in love with Mitchell’s due to their wide variety of flavors, consistently creamy texture and fresh ingredients. They even make the waffle cones right in front of you!

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On the face of it Mitchell’s looks like a typical ice cream store with a wide selection. Along with scoops in a cup or cone, you can also make special sundaes, shakes, malts and floats (plus pints and other treats to take home). However, the major difference is the taste. We were blown away by the first two flavors we tried: Salted Caramel and Mint chocolate chip. First off, the mint chocolate chip was NOT green, and it tasted like fresh mint leaves, the caramel was creamy and salty, and not at all overpowering. Other flavors like Key Lime Pie perfectly replicated their real life inspirations. There are even vegan ice creams and frozen yogurts if you are so inclined. Personally, I see a Mitchell’s ice cream cake in our future birthday plans.

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We aim to try every flavor they have, currently about 25 regular varieties. There are also seasonal flavors to enjoy, making use of Ohio’s local produce, so there will always be something new (current seasonal flavors include caramelized chocolate, fresh peach and coconut, among others). There are eight Mitchell’s stores now in Cleveland, but our favorite is in the Ohio City neighborhood (located at: 1867 W 25th St, Cleveland, OH 44113), for three important reasons: 1. It is in a converted movie theater; 2. It is the factory where they make all of their ice cream (a process you can watch); 3. There is a miniature train running around the first floor. If you visit Cleveland, be sure to stop by!

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