Thursday, October 9, 2008

Travel Food - Cleveland, OH - Sokolowski's University Inn!

As busy as things were during the few days stay in Cleveland last week, there was a lot I enjoyed about the quick business trip. While things are still quite hectic for me back here in SD, I really wanted to preserve the experience I had as a post before I lost any more steam. Time has been flying (sorry pun definitely intended).

The quality of food when traveling by plane is never a sure thing. If anything it is sure to be crappy. But I still strangely looked forward to this unknown of being out of my routine because surprises can be fun. Why I was so optimistic I don't know.

So off I went. Of course a discussion about airline food can't happen without mentioning peanuts..

Not a lot to be discussed about these except that they were from King Nut Companies of Solomon, OH. It held my appetite just long enough to the stop over in Las Vegas.

Looking forward to an authentic Chicago Dog on the way back at Midway would've made some sense but I'm not sure why I was expecting something neat to be had here at the Vegas airport.
Blackjack Blackened Ahi Tacos? The Full House Club? Poker Potato Chips? Roulette Cinnamon Buns? A re-creation of the meal the Earl of Sandwich had when he was gambling? Nada.

My traveling partner and I both agreed that the Burrito we had at the Blue Burrito Grille was the Worst Burrito We Ever Consumed In Our Lives. Way greasy and way salty, luke warm, and oh so not fresh tasting.

I was actually envying the people that were having Burger King. The line was just too long.
Still some fun to be had for me before boarding the next flight like a crack at the Wheel of Fortune Slots.

All with accurate sounding chimes from the original show. *Pa Na Naaa*

The $2 in quarters I put in lasted about forty seconds. My fortune would have to wait this time. I consider this a deposit for the future "big winning withdrawal."
The connecting flight to Cleveland was Ritz Cheese Crackers.

While I could've walked to Denny's across from the hotel I stayed, the Nissin Cup Noodles comparison happened about that first night. Much much more exciting don't you think? And I'm not being sarcastic if you were wondering.

The next day started bright and early. After a long and productive day, the very kind visitees had taken me out to dinner. I also then had a chance to learn about Cleveland which before this visit, I had really very little idea what the city was like. In any case, I was told visiting in the Fall was a really good thing.

I found Cleveland to be a beautiful city with lots and lots of old charm balanced with a good amount of modernness. One of many things that makes my heart feel fuzzy is a beautiful brick house. I adored all of them, many dating from as back as the late 1800's. Halloween decorations were just starting to come up.

As you all may know, the new Iron Chef, Michael Symon is from Cleveland where he owns more than one award winning restaurants in the city. The food scene is definitely bright and alive here with the many young professionals that live in the trendy neighborhoods around downtown and college hangouts also sprinkled about to support it.

Fahrenheit was located on a nice quaint street (it was also a Monday night).

The beautiful neighborhood was only made better by sightings of several flocks of birds heading south in a V-shaped pattern while the sun was setting.

Time to order. Beer I chose was naturally what was locally brewed, Great Lakes Dortmunder. We didn't give our rather masculine friend too much hassle with his choice of Watermelon Margarita pictured in the background.. He said it was good with the additional "guy" comment of "well at least I got my fruit intake for the year.." ;)

The starter bread was excellent with an olive tapenade and sweet butter.

I had the Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter.

So good. Maybe hard to tell by the photo but they were a nice large size. I can still taste the combination of browned butter, basil and the butternut squash in my mouth.. *salivating*

While I greatly enjoyed the meal and atmosphere at Fahrenheit, my personal highlight of the trip was a quick lunch outing on the next and final day at Sokolowski's University Inn.

Once featured in Anthony Bourdain's show on Cleveland, Sokolowski's is a must visit if you ever make it to this city. Well at least it is for me!
Sokolowski's "is famous for the kind of food that Grandma used to make." This quote taken straight from their website says it all. That is if your Grandma were Polish.

Sokolowski's is an efficient cafeteria style eatery but other than that, it's pretty much like being in someone's home. I'd already done some homework and I was set on the Salisbury Steak.

Picked up a house label diet root beer on the way to the register as well. Sauteed Pierogies also was a must taste and a side order (2 for $1.75) was the perfect portion (they gave me one extra when they found out I was sharing).

This is what it looked like under a rare bright spot I managed to find in the dining room. Mashed Potatoes with Gravy and Homemade Sauerkraut were my choices for the sides with the Salisbury Steak. As one would figure out by now being pretty isn't what the food is about here. So while I was going to clean the edges a bit before I took the snap shot, I decided to leave as-is and keep it real.

The Salisbury Steak was extremely tender and made with a fine minced ground. Wasn't so different than the Japanese take Nikomi Hamburg Steak except it was even finer. Yes Grandma would've loved this. You don't need teeth to eat it! The Sauerkraut was mild and even a little sweet and proved to be a good choice as a side (although I at first wasn't completely sure of the choice I had made).
The Smoked Kielbasa another had I ended taking more than just a tasting. Consistently smooth textured with a lot of flavor but without being too salty or greasy.

The Pierogies were awesome too. So soft with what I thought an extra starchy potato filling. The onions had an incredible natural sweetness to them that it almost tasted like it were sauteed with apple juice. That is my amateur in pierogi complete guess though.
I almost forgot to mention that the room we ate in was what used to be a Hot Rod Garage and one of our hosts (who is an avid Hot Rodder) shared stories of how he actually used to work on his car right where we were.

All was well and a quick drive back to put in a few more hours before our afternoon return flight to San Diego.

So did I get a chance to have my Chicago Dog at the Chicago Airport stop over? Yes.

And while it was good (as good as an airport food court meal can be), I was bummed when I found out later that I could've had a Superdawg. I don't know how I missed it, I was supposedly in the same terminal (B) where it would've been. Oh well. Maybe next time.


KirkK said...

Hey Dennis - I had a Superdawg at Midway, and it wasn't very good. BTW, on my visit to Cleveland, my favorite stop was the West Side Market. Met up with a bunch of Guys from back home for a wedding (in Cleveland???)....all they wanted to do was eat at Baja Fresh, because they don't have one in Hawaii...blech.....

Dennis K. said...

How funny Kirk. I definitely have my own case of thinking Fast Food being better on the other side.. Plus I have a big soft spot (aka being a sucker) for cool packaging. Superdawg's rock! haha. Thanks for the tip on West Side Market. Maybe next time I'll get the chance to visit.