Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Kicking The Craving At Katie's Korner In Kent

On a recent trip to Kent, Ohio, to try out a restaurant for dinner, I passed an interesting ice cream shop on Route 43 that I reminded myself to make a mental note to return to. Katie's Korner Homemade Ice Cream is located at 1412 South Water Street and can be reached at 330-677-1999. As it turns out after doing some digging on Google and on the Katie's Korner website, this is a franchise operation with about ten different locations, strewn throughout the northeastern Ohio region.

What really caught my eye were the words "Home Made" when I saw the sign from the street:

Even though I was pretty full from my dinner, I knew I still had enough room to pull in and give them a try. After parking my car in the lot, I headed toward the front of the building to place my order:

To the right of the ordering window, I noticed a menu posted on the wall. Not only did it contain a list of different types of ice cream-laden desserts that you can order at Katie's Korner such as cones, cups, sundaes, shakes, malts, and specialties, but it also contained all of the flavors of ice cream you can get. It's almost inconceivable really, but Katie's Korner on a regular basis has forty-five unique, homemade flavors available:

Black Cherry
Black Raspberry
Black Raspberry Cheesecake
Black Walnut
Bubble Gum
Butter Pecan
Butterscotch Ripple
Cappucino Fudge
Cake Batter
Carmel Cashew
Cherry Chocolate Cordial
Chewey Chocolate
Chocolate Almond
Chocolate Chip
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Chocolate Marshmellow
Chocolate Pecan
Coconut Almond
Cotton Candy
Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter
French Silk
French Vanilla
German Chocolate Cake
Heath Bar
Maple Walnut
Mint Chocolate Chip
Mocha Chunk
Mousse Truffle
Muddy Sneakers
Orange Pineapple
Praline Pecan
Rocky Road
Salty Dog
Strawberry Cheesecake
Rum Raisin
Vanilla Bean

In ADDITION to those flavors, Katie's Korner also has some seasonal flavors as well. Nothing major, just twelve additional flavors:

Apple Pie
Black Forest
Black Raspberry Truffle
Cherry Cheesecake
Coconut Cream Pie
Fudge Ripple
Pina Colada
Triple Chocolate

At this point, gentle reader, I was skeptical. So I asked very pointedly, "Is every single one of these ice creams made from scratch?" "Yes," was the answer I received. It wasn't until I was home and discovered that all of the flavors are actually made in the Hubbard, Ohio manufacturing facility, but they are all flavors that are unique to Katie's Korner. And honestly, if you can't manage to find a flavor or two that sounds appealing from that massive list, then you're just being stubborn. There was literally something here for every taste.

I decided to go with a two scoop cup for $3.05. Wanting to try something from the regular menu and the seasonal menu, I asked for a scoop of the Black Walnut and a scoop of the Peach. I paid for my treat and after a few minutes, I was handed this:

It's not totally obvious, but the peach ice cream was on top. This had a wonderfully fresh peach flavor and you didn't have to look too hard to see all of the peach "bits" strewn throughout the ice cream. I was concerned that the peach flavor might get lost once my taste buds got cold, but I needn't have worried. From the first bite to the last, it was all about the peach.

After eating my way through the peach layer, I finally got to the Black Walnut layer. You can see some of the black walnuts peeking through the top in this next photo:

The Black Walnut ice cream married large chunks of black walnuts with a vanilla ice cream base. Walnuts have always had a sort of bitter aftertaste to me which is probably why I didn't enjoy eating them much as a child. However, as an adult, I can certainly appreciate the flavor much more. And there was definitely lots of walnut flavor in this ice cream. The sweetness from the vanilla also helped to tame some of the bitterness.

The ordering window also had some take away menus. I picked one up to take with me primarily so that I wouldn't have to write down all the flavors to help when I wrote up this entry. However, I discovered some bits of information that weren't listed on the wall menu. I got the double scoop for $3.05. A single scoop (which is still a pretty nice sized scoop) will run you $2.05. Clearly the double scoop is the better value. However, for $1.40, you can order a "baby scoop". If you were trying to do a tasting of three or four flavors, this might be the way to go instead.

While I don't think that the flavors available at Katie's Korner are nearly as daring and "adult" as the ones available from Jeni's Ice Cream out of Columbus, Ohio, they are still fresh, seasonal, and delicious. I highly recommend you take the time to head over to Kent and check out Katie's Korner Home Made Ice Cream shop. Both kids and adults will find something great to eat that's creamy and sweet.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Cajun Dave's Inside the Water Street Tavern

Having recently read in the Food section of the Akron Beacon Journal that David Russo was branching out from his Peninsula-based restaurant, Russo's, I decided after work today to check out his newest food adventure, Cajun Dave's, located in downtown Kent, Ohio. Cajun Dave's is unique in that it isn't its own restaurant, but instead lives inside another Kent establishment, the Water Street Tavern. Located at 138 Water Street, they can also be reached at 330-474-0800.

Once I found a parking spot (there is a free lot just up the street), I finally found what I was looking for:

A shot from the side reveals something important:

There are three ways to order food from Cajun Dave's. If you look closely in the photo above, a window is built into a wooden "door". If you wanted your food to take home, you can simply walk up and order your meal, pay for it, and then collect your bags when the food is ready. You can also use this window if you called ahead to place your order. If you want to actually sit down and enjoy your meal, you walk just a bit further up the street and enter the Water Street Tavern.

Here was a shot of the sign advertising exactly what I had come to Cajun Dave's to try:

Since I came to eat dinner and not simply pick up food to take home, I walked into the Water Street Tavern's entrance just down from the sidewalk sign. Unfortunately, there were no clear indications of exactly how this was supposed to work. I could clearly see plenty of empty tables strewn through the tavern. I could clearly see what looked to be food runners / waitresses. Finally, I could clearly see an opening on the opposite end of the room with the menu posted on the wall above it for Cajun Dave's food. After standing around for about five minutes with nothing happening, I decided to ask someone next to me.

The proper procedure was to walk up and pay for your meal at the window. Then you indicate to the person taking your order where you will be sitting. If you are ordering an adult beverage, you walk over to the bar and get that. Once the food was ready, the food runner / waitress ran it out to your table. I was also a little confused about the tipping ritual as well. Since I paid for my meal with my credit card, when she handed me the slip to sign, there was no spot to leave a tip. There was a tip jar sitting on the counter at the ordering window, however. If you were to leave a couple of dollars at your table when you go to leave, I'm not exactly clear who would be getting it.

So, having figured out exactly what to do in order to get food, I placed my order, retired to a table across the room and eagerly anticipated my food. Here is what came out after about ten minutes:

This is a pulled pork po' boy with what amounts to a horseradish and creole mustard Napa "slaw". This was served on a toasted French bread which was nice and fresh. Here is a shot with the crown removed from the sandwich:

And finally, after I ate half the sandwich, I decided to take a shot from the side to show you the layers:

The sandwich was very good, but not spectacular. Like I mentioned before, the French bread was very fresh and the light toasting to it was a nice touch. It did a really nice job of holding the entire sandwich together. The pulled pork was incredibly juicy and extremely tender. The kitchen had done a nice job of pulling out most of the large chunks of fat from the pork and only once did I have to intervene by removing a piece just a little too large for my taste from my sandwich. The Napa slaw was an excellent idea and the creole mustard and horseradish were definitely mild undercurrents in every bite. However, the reason that this sandwich was very good and not spectacular was because the flavors just didn't "pop" in my mouth. I felt it was seasoned properly, as that usually tends to be the reason why flavors taste flat. Having made pulled pork myself, I'm used to using a fairly aggressive rub which tends to travel throughout the meat during the process of pulling it. Perhaps that is the reason I felt the pork was a little on the flavor-less side.

For $2 more, you can get a side of the fresh cut fries. Yes, yes, gentle reader, I know I have moaned on endlessly in previous blog entries about how limp and greasy previous examples of this foodstuff have been, but Cajun Dave's actually serves up a very good version:

These were crispy and seasoned well, although they clearly had come out of the fryer a couple of minutes before they were served because they were just lukewarm. I'm not sure if they fry them twice at Cajun Dave's, but I am sure that these were very good. I will warn you that the amount of fries you get is easily enough for two people, so if I were eating with someone else, I would only order one and split them.

Not knowing when I would be able to return, I decided to get an order to go, the Muffaletta. The menu describes it as "Italy meets Louisiana- Mortadella, Soprasetta, baked ham, Provolone cheese and Italian olive salad pressed on French Bread". What surprised me was that when I went back up to the counter to order it, the woman taking my order asked me if I wanted it hot or cold. This kind of threw me since I thought that this was always a cold sandwich. In fact, I've heard stories of people getting their sandwiches and letting them sit in the fridge for half a day to let the olive salad really help flavor the bread. I decided on getting mine cold.

Later that night, I opened the take-out container to find this:

This actually disappointed me a little bit. Anytime you send a sandwich "to-go", you should always wrap it in paper to help keep the bread nice and soft. That's just basic sandwich making 101 level knowledge. Nevertheless, the bread wasn't too stale when I finally got around to eating this.

Here is a shot of the side view of the sandwich:

As with the po' boy, Cajun Dave's muffaletta was pretty good. Actually, it's probably one of the better ones I've had in this area, but not quite up to par with the best one I've ever had. The acid in the olive salad did a nice job to help cut the fattiness of the meat. Flavor-wise, think of eating a Italian cold-cut sandwich with provolone cheese, olives, and a bit of vinegar and that's pretty much what you'll be getting here.

Is this the kind of place you would drive more than fifteen minutes out of your way to get to? No, probably not. However, if you happen to be traveling to Kent for some other reason, then this is definitely worth checking out. I know that I will certainly be returning at some point to try out some of the other po' boy sandwiches as well as the gumbo and jambalaya.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Rosh Hashanah Part II

In my previous entry on Rosh Hashanah, I spent a considerable amount of time talking about the pre-dinner festivities at Nancy and Bob's house. Arriving about ten minutes early with my aunt, I was able to take numerous photographs of the gorgeous table setting and some of the foods that had already been placed out for the first of many courses. While I enjoyed talking about the foods and symbolism regarding certain dishes, celebrating Rosh Hashanah by eating our way through it was ultimately more satisfying.

Going into tonight's dinner, what was really piquing my curiosity was the amount of ceremony involved with celebrating Rosh Hashanah. Having been to several of Nancy and Bob's Passover Seders in the past, I knew that there was a lengthier ceremony involved in celebrating that holiday. For Rosh Hashanah, however, it turned out that there was considerably less ceremony. After having lit the candles,

Nancy gave three blessings. The first was a blessing over the candles:

"Blessed are you O Eternal our God, who has commanded us to light the festival lights."

The second, a blessing over the bread:

"Blessed are you O Eternal our God, who brings forth bread from the Earth."

The third, a blessing over the wine (also known as Kiddush):

"Blessed are you O Eternal our God, who gives us the fruit of the vine."

With blessings pronounced, we were told to start our meal by dipping Honey Crisp apples into the ramekins of honey before eating them:

Apples and honey are both used symbolically to indicate the wish for a sweet year. While the apple was already sweet on its own, it also had just a bit of acidity to it that balanced very well with the honey. After we finished our apple slices, everything on the table was open for consumption.

This year Linda bought two loaves of challah, one plain and one golden raisin, from On The Rise Bakery. Here was a shot of the golden raisin version:

The bread was a wonderful pale yellow color from all of the egg yolks it contained and the golden raisin version had a lovely mild sweetness to it. I ate the golden raisin challah by itself, but decided to smear a bit of Linda's chopped liver pate onto the plain challah:

This wonderful chicken liver pate was unctuous and fatty and at the same time had a lightness to the taste. Linda told us that she had used both chicken fat and butter to give the pate a wonderful mouthfeel. If you don't like the mineral taste of liver, I don't know that this would've changed your mind, but it was an excellent version, nonetheless. The cherry tomatoes, Sugar Snaps, were from Bob's garden and were absolutely sublime. The combination of tomato flavor and natural sugars exploded in your mouth when you bit into one of these gems.

Next up was one of my all-time favorites, Nancy's gefilte fish with Bob's homemade prepared horseradish:

Nancy's gefilte fish is unusual because she uses a three fish blend, whitefish, pike, and carp, that she gets specially ground for her at Mr. Brisket. These three are ground up with some onion to form the ground fish that she then seasons and shapes into the oblong fish balls that she then gently poaches in fish stock. The fish balls on their own have a very clean, fresh fish flavor. It's only after you pair a bite of fish with some of the horseradish, however, that this dish really comes alive. The heat and the zip from the prepared horseradish surprisingly doesn't overpower the delicate flavor of the fish, but actually compliments it.

One of the nice treats about Nancy's holiday meals is that often times, simply prepared fruits or vegetables are laid out on platters and each person can customize the dish how he or she wants. I took some of the marvelous homegrown heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil from the platter and placed it on my plate:

At this point, I could have dressed it with some of the extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar available on the table to make a quick and easy vinaigrette or use one of two varieties of salts that were sitting on the table. I opted to use a simple sprinkling of volcanic black salt on my tomatoes. Besides the dramatic black color they added to the top of the tomatoes, it also added a certain mineral quality that regular sea salt didn't have. The tomatoes were at their peak of ripeness and it was all I could do just to close my eyes while I ate these to try and remember this taste until tomato season comes next year.

Our first course now complete, we had a ten minute respite during which time dirty plates were cleared from the table and the next course prepared. At the end of our break, everyone received a wonderful bowl of Nancy's chicken soup with a lone matzoh ball:

Before we sat down to dinner, Nancy had explained to us that because we were celebrating Rosh Hashanah and not Passover, leavening (in the form of baking power) had been used in the matzoh balls. While the end result looked the same as what I had experienced before, it wasn't until I took my spoon and cut into the ball that I realized the amazing difference that the leavening made in the final product. While I never considered Nancy's Passover matzoh balls to be that dense, the ones she prepared for Rosh Hashanah were ethereal and light. Even before I put the first bite into my mouth, I knew that I was in for a real treat. The chicken soup was also wonderfully rich and had a slight vegetal undercurrent to it. Lovingly referred to as "Jewish penicillin," this soup would've definitely warmed me on a cold day.

Our first two courses now underneath our belts, we took another small breather to get the most substantial course ready to serve. First on the table were some fantastic garden beets that had been roasted, sliced, and served cold with toasted almond slivers:

Growing up as a child, the only version of roasted beets I ever knew were the kind that came out of a can. As you can imagine, gentle reader, I absolutely abhorred the not only the taste of, but even the very thought of, roasted beets. It wasn't until several years ago that I tasted locally raised and roasted beets that I have learned to absolutely fall in love with them. When treated properly, the delicate beet flavor and the amazingly intense sweetness of a well-roasted beet is truly something to savor. Tonight's version ranked up there with the best that I have ever had.

Next onto the table was Linda's sweet potato and carrot tzimmes:

This dish was truly a revelation to me. Made with sweet potatoes, three kinds of organic carrots, locally grown Ohio honey from Lucy and topped with a spice blend containing ginger, coriander, Vietnamese cinnamon, and nutmeg, this immediately took me to Thanksgiving dinner. But this version was immensely better than my family's rather tired and dated candied yam casserole. This one exploded with flavor and the balance between the sweetness of the honey and the vibrance of the spices was spot on. I was so impressed with this dish, in fact, that I decided to have seconds and ask Linda for her recipe. I've already re-invented the dreaded Green Bean Casserole for my family's Thanksgiving dinner, perhaps it's time to give the Candied Yam Casserole a makeover as well.

The third item onto the table was a perennial favorite of mine, the potato kugel:

Made with grated potatoes, matzoh meal, eggs, oil, salt and pepper, this dish could be most closely associated with a bread pudding. Not that it was creamy, mind you, but the final product had a similar consistency to a bread-like product. While the previous samplings of this dish had some of Bob's chilies sprinkled through the kugel, this time it was sprinkled only on the top of the dish. While the texture of this version was identical to previous ones, I think my preference would be to have the chilies scattered through the kugel instead of just on top. But, that is just my preference, and certainly not meant to indicate that I didn't enjoy tonight's kugel just as much.

The fourth, and final, component to our third course was Linda's beef brisket in gravy:

This was a grass-fed brisket from Miller Farm that had been generously seasoned and then braised for many hours with an assortment of root vegetables in liquid. Once the brisket was completely cooked, the braised liquid and vegetables were run through Linda's Vita-Mix blender and fortified with some beef stock to make the wonderful gravy you see in the picture above. The beef was exceedingly tender and literally melted in your mouth. I did end up using my knife to eat the brisket; it wasn't to cut the meat, but to corral bits of beef, gravy, and potato kugel onto my fork before placing the morsel of savory goodness into my eagerly awaiting mouth.

When I finally managed to get a sampling of everything, my dinner plate runneth over with what Nancy described as "Jewish soul food":

I won't bother rehashing all of the fantastic flavors on that plate since I've already done so. I will say that even with two previous courses already in my stomach, I was surprised at how quickly and completely I cleaned my plate. I even had room for more of Linda's delicious tzimmes.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that we had some really fantastic wines with our dinner tonight. I didn't get a picture of all of them, but here are two that were rather well-liked, an Australian shiraz from Jacob's Creek and a cabernet sauvignon from Simi:

With the main meal out of the way now, we took a little bit longer break to completely clear off the table before serving the desserts. While I was feeling a bit full at that time, I decided to eat through the discomfort in order to enjoy the two wonderful desserts I had seen on the printed menu earlier in the evening. Our first dessert was made by Linda and consisted of a honey cake baked in a bundt pan:

She also made homemade apple sauce and her husband, Fred, whipped up some slightly sweetened heavy cream to be served alongside the cake:

I then managed to assemble all of the components onto my plate:

The honey cake was dense and moist. It tasted of honey and spices, but wasn't overpowering in either category. Mixed with a bit of the apple sauce and the freshly whipped cream, this was an excellent way to start off the dessert course. Honestly, had the other dessert not been so small, I would've happily ended my entire meal with the dressed-up honey cake.

Our final taste of the evening would be something that Nancy happened to come across while shopping at one of her favorite Cleveland locations, Casa Dolce (she has even written about having lunch at Casa Dolce). Some time ago she almost accidentally noticed that Casa Dolce was selling a traditional Jewish delicacy called Rainbow Cookies:

Made from marzipan, these cookies were something that Nancy remembered from her childhood but had never seen in Cleveland until now. She tried some back then and vowed to come back during Rosh Hashanah and place an order for her guests. I'm certainly glad she did. I could've walked by the case in Casa Dolce hundreds of times and never have guessed what these actually were.

Here was a shot of a single cookie, accentuating the many colorful layers:

I've had marzipan paste before (the principal ingredient being ground almonds) and know the flavor well. The surprising thing about this cookie, however, was how cake-like the texture felt. Had I not been told this was a cookie, I would've just assuming it was a multi-layer cake. The almond flavor was intense and clean and the combination of almond with the chocolate frosting on top was a nice way to finish the meal.

At this point, everyone was too full to move, so we sat at the table and lazily conversed about current events and politics for another forty-five minutes. Realizing that my aunt and I had a fairly lengthy drive ahead of us, I suggested that it might be time to depart. Still fairly full from the momentous meal, everyone arose from their chairs, thank you's and good-bye's were exchanged between guests and our gracious hosts, and we quickly found ourselves back outside in the cool, moon-lit air. On the way back to my grandmother's condominium, I asked my aunt if the meal had lived up to the hype of my previous post on Nancy and Bob's Passover Seder meal. She answered emphatically, "And then some!"

Shanah tovah.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Rosh Hashanah Part I

Shanah tovah.

About a month ago, I received an invitation from my good friend Nancy to join them in celebrating the Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashanah. Having attended the Passover Seder celebration at Nancy and Bob's house the last several years, I was both curious and anxious to see the similarities and differences between the two holidays. Like the Passover Seder, Rosh Hashanah is celebrated on two consecutive nights here in America. This year Nancy and Bob decided to pair up with another couple, Linda and Fred, to help distribute the work of creating these two amazing meals. As we got closer to the date, it turned out that Friday night's dinner would be for family and Saturday night's dinner would be for friends.

Besides being fortunate enough to attend such a marvelous celebration, I was also happy that I would be able to bring my aunt along as my guest. She had eagerly devoured my two posts on Nancy's Passover Seder earlier this year and was more than willing to drive in from out of town to experience this new holiday with me. She peppered me with questions at first, but having never been to a Rosh Hashanah dinner before, I was ill equipped to answer them. I assured her that the one thing she could expect was that whatever food was served would be at its best.

We arrived at around ten minutes until 7 PM and were warmly greeted by our hosts and the guests already present. Introductions were made and within mere moments, we were presented with a lovely glass of rose wine. I had asked Nancy ahead of time if it would be okay to blog about our dinner celebration and she graciously agreed to the request. I knew that she had been recovering from being sick earlier in the week as well as putting together a two night dinner extravaganza, so it only made sense to delegate picture taking to someone else to ease the burden a bit.

After processing all of the pre-dinner and dinner pictures, I decided that I had enough photographs to take a similar path to my Passover Seder entries and tell the story in two parts. This entry will describe the table before we all gathered and sat down for the meal. The next one will describe the ceremony involved as well as a better description of the foods we were served.

I set my wine glass down on the counter, pulled out my trusty G1 Google phone and began taking picture of Nancy's amazing table setting. Here was the view from the head of the table:

And a view from the opposite end:

Other than the two small candles at the head of the table, there weren't any additional ceremonial dishes or glasses on the table. I began walking around the table taking pictures of the dishes already present. First up was a wonderful bowl of chicken liver pate that Linda had brought:

This was garnished simply with some chopped parsley and smelled simply wonderful. Next up was a dish that was welcome at not just a holiday dinner, but any dinner, Nancy's amazing gefilte fish with carrots and flat-leaf parsley:

Just as Nancy and Bob are partners in life, they are also partners in food as well. As good as Nancy's gefilte fish is on it's own, with Bob's freshly grated and prepared horseradish, the pairing is almost magical:

We were all equally as blessed this year with the amazing bounty that came from Bob's garden. Here was a plate of garden fresh radishes and hot peppers:

The platter next to the radishes and peppers contained a myriad of garden fresh heirloom tomatoes dressed simply with some of the fresh basil picked right from the garden earlier that day:

From left to right, there were Early Pick, Black Krim, Costoluto Florentino, Azoychka, Sioux and Fireworks. Besides being a symphony of colors for the eyes, they were a symphony of flavors for the mouth, too.

In a bowl next to the tomato selection were some of Bob's garden cherry tomatoes, the Sugar Snaps:

I probably shouldn't have, but I couldn't resist popping one in my mouth after taking this photo. I bit into it and allowed the tomato liquor to coat my tongue. I was rewarded with an intensely sweet tomato flavor that one can only get from a locally grown tomato at this time of year. It certainly whetted my appetite for the meal to come.

This year, Linda decided to get two kinds of challah, a plain and a golden raisin, from a local establishment, On The Rise Bakery in Cleveland Heights. This was a shot of the golden raisin challah before it was sliced:

Challah is normally a braided bread, but during Rosh Hashanah, the challah is made into a round shape to symbolize both the unending circle of life as well as well as the crown of God's kingship over man.

Two plates of locally grown Honey Crisp apples had been cut up into wedges and placed at opposite ends of the table:

Apples and honey are traditionally served at the Rosh Hashanah meal to symbolize the hope for a sweet year. The honey we would be using came from a Northeast Ohio purveyor, OhioHoney (whose real name happens to be Lucy). She can be found every Saturday at the Shaker Square Farmer's Market and sells the most amazing variety of naturally produced honey and honey-related products.

During a Passover Seder meal, the Haggadah is sitting on the individual place settings. Tonight, the only item present on everyone's plate was a small ramekin of Lucy's wonderful elixir:

Having taken my fill of pictures, I discovered a piece of paper at the end of the table that detailed the vast number of courses to come. I thought I would share this menu with you, gentle reader, to whet your appetite for the meal that was about to begin shortly:

Truly a feast! If tonight's dinner was anything like Nancy's Passover Seder meal, I knew that it would be impossible to leave the table with anything less than a very full stomach and a completely sated palate. I returned to the kitchen both excited and satisfied, retrieved my glass of wine and rejoined the lively conversation while we waited for the remaining guest to arrive. Fortunately, I didn't have to wait long. And fortunately, neither will you.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Molly Brown's Multiple Personalities

An old high school friend and reader of my blog clued me in to one of her favorite eateries in Ellet, Ohio, Molly Brown's Kitchen. Located just five minutes from my house, I was surprised to learn of this restaurant since I have probably driven by it hundreds of times on my way to work and back. Located at 518 Canton Road in the Eastgate Ellet Plaza, they are hidden amongst a myriad of other stores. While there is currently no website for Molly Brown's, they can be reached at 330-784-4711 (phone) and 330-784-4713 (fax).

Before going, I did try and do as much research as I could by reading comments left by past diners on various Internet sites. Most of the people commented on the excellent food, but some people were put off by the small portions and the expensive menu. Armed with this bit of knowledge, I headed off this morning around 10:30 AM for a late breakfast. Here is a photo of the front of the restaurant:

The first thing I discovered was that there is no down or slow time at Molly Brown's. The entire time I was there it was packed with people. There wasn't any wait today, but it wouldn't surprise me if the next time I go there would be. Once I was finally seated, I started looking over the menu:

Do note that Molly Brown's is only open for breakfast and lunch every day of the week. This is why I had to wait until a Saturday to actually go, since I'm at work during the weekdays. The menu was fairly typical of a joint serving breakfast and lunches. Lots of the classics: eggs, waffles, pancakes, French toast, breakfast meats. Lunch items were also pretty typical with a nice selection of sandwiches and salads.

The first thing that struck me as odd was when I saw these on the table to be used as condiments:

Knowing that some people like to use hot sauce on their eggs, I didn't give it too much thought. But it was when I was perusing the breakfast items and I found four classic Mexican breakfast dishes that I figured I had better ask some questions when my server returned to take my order. When my server returned, it was then that I learned that the owner's husband is actually Mexican and these dishes were an ode to his heritage. Three of the dishes, huevos rancheros, chorizo and eggs, and a breakfast burrito I had seen or heard of before. The fourth dish, machacas and eggs, was something I had never heard of. When my server actually recommended it to me, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try this very unique dish.

As soon as my server walked away, I immediately pulled out my smartphone and starting Googling away. Wikipedia provided a nice review of what machaca actually is and how it is used. Other links provided recipes and further discussion. It seems that machaca was originally marinated air-cured beef (kind of like beef jerky) that was then rehyrdrated and mixed in to other dishes. In the case of my dish, it would be combined with scrambled eggs. Since the advent of refrigeration, most treatments of machaca are now made by marinating the beef over night and then cooking it slowly to allow the connective tissue to break down. The meat is then shredded and used in whatever dish they are going into.

Confident that by the time my server returned I knew more about the item on the menu than even she did, I was greeted with something that looked like it came out of a Mexican kitchen rather than a fine country dining establishment like Molly Brown's. Here is a shot of my machacas and eggs:

And a shot of the warm corn tortillas that came as a side:

Everything about this meal stood out as flavorful and unique. The eggs had been cooked scrambled perfectly and with the added beef and roasted peppers, it had a depth of beefy flavor that was just wonderful. It had some melted shredded cheese on top, but honestly, it wasn't even necessary. I managed to isolate a piece of the beef from the eggs and took a shot:

The other primary players on the plate, the Mexican rice and the refried beans were also excellent. I was worried about the rice because at a place that is not primarily known for it's Mexican fare, not-so-fresh rice could be a definite possibility. Not here. It was seasoned perfectly and every single bite was moist and had the perfect chew. Besides the machacas and eggs, the other standout on my plate today was the refried beans. These were definitely not beans that had come out of a can or had simply been rehydrated with water. They had such a rich depth of flavor that I was convinced that they had been fried in bacon fat. It turns out that I was close. When I went up to pay my check, I actually spoke with the owner and her husband and their refried beans are done the traditional way, in lard. They were excellent.

The two condiments on my plate were sour cream and guacamole. The sour cream was pretty standard, but I absolutely loved the fact that the guacamole was not only homemade, but also chunky. A pet peeve of mine is guacamole that has been processed to the point where it looks like green spackling. There were nice large pieces of avocado and an even nicer surprise, finely minced jalapeno peppers. Each bite was chunky, creamy, and just a little bit spicy. Not to forget the corn tortillas that I had ordered as a side, I ate these throughout the meal and thought that they were outstanding. They had a lovely soft texture, like a flour tortilla, but definitely had a non-greasy corn flavor that worked well with the other flavors on my plate.

I had gone into Molly Brown's today expecting that it was going to be similar to a southern style diner. However, what I walked away with today was not only the introduction of a dish I had never even heard of, but that was also delicious and filling. To my earlier point of small portion sizes or an expensive menu, the person who posted that must be delusional as the portions were quite large and most of the menu items were between $4 and $8. In fact, my meal, including a cup of coffee came to a little over $9 with tax. Is it as cheap as McDonald's? Of course not. But it is also 300% better than McDonald's, too.

I highly recommend you check out Molly Brown's Country Cafe. For the traditionalist in your group there are plenty of the old stand-by items that will be sure to please. For the adventurous in your group, there are those wonderful Mexican breakfast specialties that you can get nowhere else in Akron. Heck, maybe even in Cleveland, too.

Molly Brown's Country Cafe on Restaurantica
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