Philomena’s – Valley View Ohio

Here’s a guest review from my wife, Sara. After months (if not years) of badgering, she was finally inspired to produce the following. It was worth the wait.

 

I always promised stephenherron.com that I would contribute to the ClevelandEats blog.  However, that is a very difficult venture, because soon after eating, I often fall into a food coma and am rendered useless with the, how you say, “words” necessary to document an eatery experience.  However, upon recovery from my food induced fugue, I become hungry, and the abject terror that I may never eat again causes a sort of amnesia state about the finer points of the previous meal, so any review written would consist of something along the lines of “I ate food.  Food good.”

So now, in the golden hour between my feedings, I seek to share the experiences of dining at Philomena’s, located at 7503 Granger Road – Valley View Ohio 44125.  In order to make sure that the review could fair and balanced, two meals had to be consumed.  Such is the sacrifice I am willing to make as an aspiring guest blogger.  These two occasions actually sandwiched a girl’s only vacation which left the husband and cat home alone a week, so the first trip to Philomena’s served as a tearful farewell dinner, whereas the second trip was to reintroduce Stephen to eating with utensils and the social graces that are lost during a week without constant nagging from yours truly.

To start off with, I think it is fair to note that Philomena’s is located on the former premises of a *ahem* “gentleman’s club”, and lest you forget, the “Cleveland P.M.” sign is still firmly attached to the building.  According to my sources, the décor has changed very little inside.  How stephenherron.com came to possess that knowledge is another story entirely, and involves a lot of yelling and more of that aforementioned nagging.

The staff could not be more welcoming and friendly at Philomena’s.  I think between our two trips, we met everyone involved with the restaurant, from the owners to the chef, who eagerly wanted to know how our dining experience was progressing.  Attentiveness to our needs was never in question, and drink refills were plentiful (blogging works up a powerful thirst, as you know).

We ate dinner at Philomena’s on a Friday night for our first meal.  Stephen glanced over the menu and declared that there wasn’t anything on it that he liked, so he was half tempted to leave before ordering.  However, after kind encouragement (or a withering sigh) on my part, he decided to forge on.  Stephen’s interest was piqued by one of the specials, sausage stuffed mushrooms, so he ordered that as an appetizer as we were presented with a bread basket filled with warm, buttery focaccia.  The bread was incredible and Stephen nearly lost fingers as I snarled protectively over it as he tried to partake as well.  I had to relent as he raved about the Philomena’s Marinara Sauce that his mushrooms were bathing in, and I had to agree that it was one of the best sauces I’d had as I began dipping the bread into it.  Rich, sweet and velvety, I looked forward to it being slathered on my entrees.

Stephen opted for their Italian meat pizza as a main course, and was satisfied with the thin, chewy crust.  Topped with sausage, meatballs, pancetta bacon, Genoa salami and shaved Prosciutto, there may have been too many meats to the party.  Stephen found that many were a bit dry and heavy for the delicate crust.  Overall, however, he was pleased with the pizza.

I partook of the Parmigiana Italiana with chicken, and found it delicious.  The chicken was tender and cooked perfectly inside the breadcrumb and parmesan crust.  It stayed crispy underneath a layer of mozzarella and parmesan cheese, doused with the heavenly marinara sauce.  A side of angel hair pasta with more of the sauce accompanied the dish. 

During the meal, our server and about 8 other people who stopped by to chat, let us know of their schedule of live music on the patio and of their Sunday Grand Brunch.  While the Herrons enjoy their music, combining two of our favorite meals into one is a singularly wondrous accomplishment that we cannot say “no” to. 

So, the Sunday I return from vacation, bronzed goddess that I am, I whisk Stephen off to Brunch.  So Grand is the Brunch, that we must be formally introduced to it, which was certainly a new experience [we were literally offered a tour – Stephen]. 

Much flourishing and gesturing commence, and I decide to make Brunch my new best friend.  Presented on granite  and marble slabs, the dishes make for a stunning presentation.  A wide variety of fruits, cheeses, salmon, shrimp, pasta salads and meat dishes take the center stage, while three stations surrounding offer up eggs and pasta made to order as well as a carvery.  My first trip to the buffet,  I chose some of their crispy, fat-imbued hash-browns with a crown of cheese, fluffy scrambled eggs, thick cut bacon, a slice of cinnamon scented, thick French Toast dolloped with blueberry preserves  and a small raspberry pastry from their vast selection. 

Please note that each serving of what I described was miniscule and should not be construed as a gluttony, as that would be most unladylike.  On the second trip (remembering the mouse sized portions from before), I chose some piquant,  caper-decorated pieces of lemony chicken piccata, a sliver of carved turkey and dressing, some Caesar salad complete with anchovy dotted dressing and a dollop of a spicy pepper and broccoli imbued pasta salad. 

Groaning, but knowing that I had to charge ahead with a full accounting of the buffet’s glory, I waddled back for some creamy, light and tart lemon mousse and a triangle of rich, decadent brownie and of powder sugar dusted lemon square.  To summarize, allow me to say that I didn’t meet a buffet item that I didn’t like.  Or love.  I believe that we will continue to explore our relationship to define it more clearly. 

Stephen very austerely visited the egg station for a well prepared omelette and selected from their in season, ripe fruits.  For the record, let it be known that he’d already had breakfast, so it was incumbent upon me to have the fortitude for this endeavor, who had so valiantly refused to cheat on brunch with breakfast [my austerity was thusly quite fake – Stephen]. 

Though it will not be a regular occurrence, this will be a wonderful place to take out of town or country friends and relations for a special treat.  I was fully satisfied with my two meals at Philomena’s (all right, three, I begrudgingly agree that the last one counts as two… portion control and wise food choices start tomorrow!)

DiBella’s Update

First of all, the Solon DiBella’s has reintroduced the toaster, having got rid of the oven. I don’t think it was terribly popular. I had spoken to the manager about it and he was very interested in my opinion on the cooking method. I’d told him that I didn’t like the oven and how it changed the taste of the food.

He suggested that I ask to have the sandwich filling cooked on the grill; onions, peppers, meat all together, and to let him know how that tasted.

Obviously, it’s not a healthy option but it tasted fantastic. I don’t go there as often as I used to, but this is how I get my sub made when I do.

DiBella’s (the Solon one at least) are open-minded and always interested in your ideas and opinions. The staff remain as friendly as ever, though it’s a bad sign (for me) when you walk in and they ask if you want your “usual” sandwich.

Actually, I love that sort of thing.

Zoup!

Recently I’ve been forcing myself to eat soup. Not always healthy soups, but usually. I’m not a fan of chowders or soups that are terribly creamy and heavy. It has just coincidentally been good for me.

Near the office, there’s a place called Zoup! and yes, the name includes the exclamation point. They have a really decent range of soups that change slightly from day to day. They also make sandwiches, which is not their strong point, but the grilled turkey club is amazing if you get american cheese on it. They also do salads, but obviously I have no idea what they’re like.

The soups come in a variety of sizes, starting at “reasonably priced” and going up to “holy crap, I could buy a sub from DiBella’s for this!” I usually go for the “bowl” which is a bit larger than the standard size, but quite filling. Each serving of soup comes with a bread roll, either french, sourdough or wholewheat. Although I usually get a sandwich, I imagine the “bowl and roll” is probably satisfying enough for most folks.

I tend to go for chicken-based soups, such as their White Chicken Chili. It’s got a kick to it, but it’s fairly harmless as these things go. I tend to add a lot of salt, but you’ll probably not need to.

The Solon Zoup! is incredibly busy between about noon and 1:30pm, so I try to get over there by about 11:30 to get my food. You can also order and pay online, which let’s you skip the queue entirely (unless there’s a queue at that counter.

Because the soups change daily, it’s a good idea to sign up for their newsletter, which is customized for each location. It tells you what soups are available today, just in case there’s nothing you like, saving you a fruitless (soupless?) journey. This has happened to me a few times, but since DiBella’s is basically next door, it’s hardly what you’d call a wasted trip.

If you’re a soup kind of person, you’ll really like Zoup! and the wide range of soups on offer. The sandwiches are functional, though I’ve had an ongoing craving for the american cheese version of the turkey club. Something about the crunchy cheesiness of it, I think. Good stuff.

Waiting for WeightWatchers

I know it’s been a while since I posted, but I’ve been trying to work through WeightWatchers and finding places to eat out has been a real challenge.

Speaking of WeightWatchers, the iPhone app is fantastic. It’s been very helpful (I’ve lost about 15 lbs) but it’s not really enough. I’m going to find a local gym and join up, hopefully seeing a trainer once or twice a month. That’s the plan, at least.

In the meantime, I’ve finally discovered McDonald’s selection of salads. Tasty and fairly low in points, they might just keep me on track during this difficult diet.

Wish me luck.

Normal service will be resumed soon, with a more healthy angle, potentially…

 

George’s Kitchen – 13101 Triskett Rd. Cleveland, Ohio

A couple of weeks ago, I was having breakfast-for-dinner at IHoP with fellow writer, John Newman. He then told me about another really good breakfast place (he shares my “interest” in the most important meal of the day) so we headed there around 9am one Saturday morning. It was busy, which is always a good sign.

We went in and were quickly seated. The menu was pretty broad with all the usual breakfast delights. I ordered sausages, eggs and hash browns, which came with toast. I also ordered a side of bacon, just to see.

The food was great. The hash browns were interesting, being more finely chipped rather than the short-strings of places like IHoP or the dull awful cubes of Bob Evans. The eggs were cooked to perfection (over-medium, of course), and I really enjoyed my breakfast there.

They don’t seem to have sweeteners on the table, favoring pure sugar, but I was quickly provided with what I requested (note – I like to mix my artificial sweetners – you should try it.)

In summary, I very much enjoyed my first visit to George’s Kitchen and may well be revisiting it soon. Next time I’ll take better notes :)