Category Archives: Restaurants

Pier W: Fantastic Food, Even Better Customer Service

Two pieces of housekeeping: 

1) Congratulations to entry #34 – Megan Kilway! You won two tickets to CIFF’s Get Shorty Film Feast. Please reply to my email by January 26 at noon ET to confirm you can still attend.

Don’t have your tickets yet to Get Shorty on January 29? Tickets can be purchased here. You’ll have a great evening out, while helping to raise money for CIFF 39.

ciff tinyu

2) A note about today’s blog post: At various points in both of our careers, Scott and I worked in some form of customer relations. Because of this, we love seeing examples of businesses that go out of their way to provide stellar service, especially in response to a misstep. No one’s perfect; it’s how a business handles a mistake that truly demonstrates the value they place on their customer relationships.

I say all of this because of a recent experience Scott had at Pier W. He asked me if he could share it on the blog. Take it away, Scott.

Pier W 1

There was a saying I often heard as a child:

“It’s not your mistakes that define you, but how you deal with those mistakes.”

Most of the time I find sayings like that trite and indefinable in real life, so when I come across an actual example of it I take note.

Amanda and I have been big fans of Pier W for some time. I’d long been interested in going thanks to the billboard that towers over the Shoreway (especially when the modern ad fell off and the awesome old Pier W ad was visible for a few days).

It’s one of the few places around Cleveland where this Jersey boy can get really good seafood. I was hooked after my first sip of lobster bisque at a happy hour.

Add to their food the lakeside location, view of Cleveland’s stunning skyline, an incredible layout (love the glass elevator that goes past a fish tank!), and live pianist tickling ivories with superhero movie theme songs, and you have one of the coolest places in Cleveland.

It should come as no surprise that when it came time to plan Amanda’s birthday dinner, Pier W was at the top of my list.

Unfortunately, a customer service glitch kept our group from having dinner there that evening. Amanda’s birthday still turned out fine, but like all plans gone awry one does feel somewhat hardened to what threw things off. I loved Pier W, and I didn’t want to have a smudge on my opinion of it. But that was the fact of the matter.

Thankfully, that issue will not be what defines Pier W for me. I reached out to the restaurant, and after I explained to General Manager Mark Kawada what happened, he was determined to make sure what went wrong was put right.

Shortly after the start of 2015, Amanda, I, and a small group of friends were able to have that birthday dinner at Pier W.

Pier w food smaller

Iced Seafood Tower, Lobster Pappardelle, Chocolate Mousse Cake

It was an incredible time, and this was thanks to the wonderful customer service of Mr. Kawada and the staff at Pier W. He was determined that one bad experience would not define my view of the restaurant.

His above-and-beyond work paid off. I could not have a higher opinion of Pier W than I do right now. It was a mistake well fixed. (The free glass of champagne that Pier W is giving all of their guests for their 50th anniversary didn’t hurt.)

As grateful as I am to Mr. Kawada, let’s not forget the true star of our dinner at Pier W: Succulent raw oysters, the Iced Seafood Tower, the salty juices of Alaskan Crab Legs, and of course the lobster bisque.

I know Amanda thoroughly enjoyed the Maine lobster pappardelle she ordered. It’s the addition of ingredients like red peppers and French green beans in the pappardelle’s rich cognac sauce that sets Pier W’s dishes above others.

We were all delightfully stuffed, but that didn’t keep us from some delightful dessert. Chocolate mousse cake for myself and refreshing housemade sorbets for Amanda..

I’m thankful Mr. Kawada was able to put Pier W back in my positive thoughts, because the idea of going through life without any of that again makes me very sad.

So that is my delicious illustration of a trite – but important – saying. Pier W has redefined itself to me as not only a fantastic Cleveland dinner spot, but a true believer in excellent customer service.

I can’t wait to go back and recommend the restaurant to anyone looking for a special night of exquisite food and service that matches. If you go during the first 100 days of this year, you’ll also get a free glass of champagne (and flute to take home) in honor of Pier W’s 50th anniversary.

Because I love any chance to pen a limerick, here’s one dedicated to Pier W:

There once was a man who liked seafood,
And desired some that was real good.
So he tried very hard not to drool,
As he looked at the menu of Pier W,
And when there he’s always in a fantastic mood!

Why Urban Farmer Has Been My Saving Grace These Last Couple of Months

Steak Final

Steak from Urban Farmer in downtown Cleveland

It’s been a while, I know. Between work and PlayhouseSquare’s Partners board kicking into high gear, I haven’t had time (or residual energy) to blog here.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t been blogging. I’ve been busy the past couple of months over on PR Newswire’s Beyond Bylines blog.  (If you’re a blogger, feel free to check out a few of my recent blogging tip articles here, here and here.)

All of this has meant a lot of late nights and working through lunch. I’m not complaining, though. Ever since Urban Farmer opened in the Westin attached to my office building, I have a delicious and terribly convenient go-to for a late after-work dinner or happy hour.

Enjoying a summer happy hour at Urban Farmer

Enjoying a summer happy hour at Urban Farmer

Scott and I have worked in the Penton Media Building for eight years and with the exception of the occasional restaurant in the Galleria like Winks, dinner near work usually meant walking to PlayhouseSquare or E4th Street. Especially if we were in the mood for something special.

Although that 15-minute walk isn’t the worst, I sometimes think twice about it when it’s February and a few feet of snow or ice coat the ground.

With Urban Farmer, the trip consists of one elevator ride and a short walk down the hallway into the Westin.

It’s not only the convenience that makes Urban Farmer amazing.

From a blogger dinner a couple months ago to numerous happy hours and lunch meetings, Scott and I have thoroughly enjoyed exploring their menus. Scott even picked Urban Farmer as his birthday splurge for the year — and there were no complaints from me about having to go there again.

lobster final

Even if you’re not a steak fan, Urban Farmer offers something delicious like this lobster with tomato, avocado, and verjus sorbet

Here are my five favorite picks when I eat there:

For Lunch: The roasted pork bbq sandwich. One of the best sandwiches I’ve had. Wonderful BBQ flavor, juicy. The brussels slaw really complements it.  While I’ve heard wonderful things about their fries from Scott, my recommendation is to go with their salad for your side. Always delicious with seasonal vegetables and quinoa on top.

For Happy Hour: This is my favorite time to go to Urban Farmer. I recommend sitting in the lounge seating instead of at bar. You’ll have table service and still enjoy the happy hour specials.

To drink, try a salted honey beer for $5. This drink is perfect — gin, pilsner, lemon and a honey rim. I wish that it was on their regular dinner drinks menu.

Pair that with: their deviled eggs topped with a large chunk of house bacon and maple; their bangers and mash dish with chicken cherry sausage and potato puree; and the bbq pork shoulder, shrimp and grits. Three fantastic small plates that range in the $5-$7 range.

For a Special Occasion: Go ahead and splurge. Urban Farmer’s steak selection rivals some restaurants’ wine menus. If you can’t make up your mind, go with the New York Steak Tasting (6 oz each of White Oak grass-fed, Creekstone corn-fed and Ohio Proud twenty-one day dry aged).

For the Non-Steak Fan: Although Urban Farmer really shines at steaks, they offer excellent pork, chicken and fish dishes. I actually went with a flounder special for Scott’s birthday and as someone who grew up eating fresh flounder we had just caught off a boat, this dish blew me away. I also love pairing a couple first courses and sides, such as the lobster, tomato, avocado, and verjus sorbet, their prime beef tartare, or creamed spinach gratin.

Save Room for Dessert: I never save room for dessert. Sweets are great, but I’d rather another serving of oysters instead. Not at Urban Farmer. Ever since they served their Great Lakes Barley Custard at the blogger dinner, I’ve been hooked. It’s a mild flavor with an undertone of hops.  And to top it off, a crunchy honeycomb.

Urban Farmer's Great Lakes Barley Custard

Urban Farmer’s Great Lakes Barley Custard

In addition to their food, I love disappearing into Urban Farmer’s beautiful surroundings after a long day. The restaurant designer has created an atmosphere that perfectly encapsulates the Urban Farmer name.

While of course it feels like a posh restaurant you’d find in any city – be it Cleveland, Philly or New York, there are elements that make you instantly comfortable like you’re sitting down to dinner with friends in a warm, comfortable farmhouse.

And although the restaurant isn’t actually that large, it feels huge with at least 4 or 5 interconnected spaces, all a little unique in their decor to one another.

Two of the spaces in Urban Farmer

Two of the spaces in Urban Farmer

I love it because there’s a level of familiarity whenever I dine there, but I also feel like I see the restaurant with fresh eyes each time. Which is good, because I plan on dining there a lot.

Urban Farmer is open seven days a week at the Westin in downtown Cleveland. They offer breakfast, lunch, happy hour and dinner Monday-Friday. On the weekends, join them for brunch and dinner.

If you’re looking for a special way to celebrate New Year’s Eve or Day, join them for dinner on the 31st before heading out to your NYE party (dinner will be served til 11pm) or enjoy a hearty brunch on January 1.

Disclosure: I attended a dinner for bloggers a few months ago at Urban Farmer, but have visited the restaurant a few times since to get a feel for the rest of the restaurant and their other dishes. All opinions are 100% my own.

Help Build Trentina’s Community Chandelier at MOCA Cleveland

By now you’ve probably heard about Jonathon and Amelia Sawyer’s newest restaurant project Trentina.

Team Sawyer is turning to the eastside and taking over the space that used to house Sergio’s in University Circle. Inspired by dishes from northern Italy’s Trentino region, the plan is to open by May of this year.

What sets Trentina apart from the team’s other restaurants is that this is the first one they are opening on their own. As they wrote on their Kickstarter project: No outside influences, just us.

Unsurprisingly, Trentina’s Kickstarter  funded at nearly double their original goal, netting $39,583 from 206 backers.

Disclosure: I contributed to the Kickstarter because I think it’s a great idea for a restaurant and, as someone in the process of launching a comics label with my husband, appreciate the desire to have something that’s yours.

In addition to helping raise funds for Trentina, the Kickstarter was an excellent way to include the community in the restaurant’s creation.

Although the Kickstarter may be over, you have another way to contribute to Trentina thanks to their partnership with MOCA Cleveland.

A visit to one of MOCA’s Family Nights sparked an idea for the design of Trentina. As Amelia writes on Chef’s Widow, “What if our community built an art installation that could be viewed year round at the restaurant?”

Scott at MOCA

Through April 12, visit Cleveland’s Museum of Contemporary Art for INTERMISSION: Community Chandelier Project where you can help build the chandelier that will hang in Trentina.

Scott and I recently dropped by MOCA’s free first floor to add beads to the wire strings that will construct the chandelier.

When the chandelier is complete, color beads will represent the entire community who came out to show their support. A plaque will hang in the restaurant detailing the community’s effort and the history behind the project.

The Trentina chandelier project will continue through April 12 during the museum’s hours:Tuesday-Sunday, 11–5 pm; open until 9 pm Thursdays; and closed Mondays. MOCA staff confirmed late last week that the only date the project won’t be available is March 28.

Trentina beads

While you’re at MOCA, take some time to also explore the museum’s current exhibits and upcoming events.

The 2 exhibits at MOCA through June 8 are DIRGE: Reflections on [Life and] Death and Sara VanDerBeek’s solo show looking at Cleveland’s landscape and the changes it’s undergoing. A list of the museum’s other programming, including lectures, performances, and hands-on activities, can be found here.

Admission to the museum is free for MOCA Cleveland members and children 5 and under. General Admission is $8 ($6 Ages 65+, $5  Students with valid ID).

The first Saturday of the month is free for everyone and features special programming. The next one on April 5 includes a 15 minute Target Talk, led by museum staff who share their personal reflections on the exhibits, ArtSquad activities for families with kids 10 and under, and a free bookbinding workshop offered by the Cleveland Institute of Art. And, of course, Trentina’s community chandelier and other projects on the first floor are always free.

Clue Into Cleveland Blogs: Ohio Blogging at The Oak Barrel

Photo tweeted by @sos_jr at last night's Ohio Blogging Meetup

Photo tweeted by @sos_jr at last night’s Ohio Blogging Meetup

There were only a few things that would make me venture out of the house into yesterday’s snow storm. Dinner at The Oak Barrel was one of those things, especially for Ohio Blogging’s latest meetup.

When I looked out my office window halfway through the day and saw the snow pelting downtown, I was second-guessing this decision. However, Scott and I actually lucked out after leaving around 5:30. It had stopped snowing and the roads were clear.

We were rewarded for this decision by a delicious dinner and good company.

At the recommendation of pretty much everyone at our table, I ordered Chef Demetrios’ Dr. Pepper Braised Pork Shank. I was *this close* to ordering my usual go-to of mac and cheese or steak, especially because the bacon-wrapped tenderloin with bleu cheese whipped potatoes and duck confit mac and cheese sounded so good.

Dr. Pepper Braised Pork Shank from The Oak Barrel

Dr. Pepper Braised Pork Shank from The Oak Barrel

However, I’m glad I went with the ultra-tender pork shank. Sitting atop garlic mashed potatoes, the juices from the meat and the sweet-and-spicy soy chile jam saturated the potatoes. A hearty serving of succulence, it was well-worth the under-$20 price. Even better on my wallet, we took advantage of The Oak Barrel’s Wine Wednesdays with a half-priced bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

Because of the weather, our meetup group was smaller than usual. However, this allowed for more indepth conversations with people I don’t always get to see like Stuart and Julie Smith from and Valerie from Motherhood in Progress.

Before I get to my round-up of last night’s bloggers, I want to share 52 Weeks of Cleveland’s remembrance of Sean Kilbane, co-owner of Happy Dog. Over the weekend, Cleveland lost someone who was not just doing great work within the local restaurant, bar and music community, but had made an impact on individuals and groups like Secondhand Mutts with his constant generosity and friendliness. Hot Dogs, Frostie’s, and Pinball is a beautiful reflection.

What I learned from the bloggers at Ohio Blogging’s Oak Barrel Roundtable

1) Last month, the Cleveland Public Library opened up their new TechCentral MakerSplace. Anyone with a library card can now access laser engraving, 3D printing, photography, videography and graphic design technology. was at the TechCentral MakerSpace’s grand opening and has more information about this great addition.

2) Although Scott and I love our two full-of-personality cats, I do occasionally worry about how we’ll need to prepare Chloe and Cupcake when Scott and I adopt children. Fortunately, Motherhood in Progress shares some very good tips about how to get your cat ready before and after a baby’s arrival from her own recent experiences.

3) East and West sides met last Saturday for Believe in CLE’s yoga event at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Nearly 800 yogis took over the museum’s beautiful atrium, and Poise in Parma was invited to assist the class. Read her recap on the mat: #believeinCLE at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

4) The Cleveland Institute of Music and Severance Hall have joined forces to showcase the young talent of the CIM Orchestra in one of Cleveland’s most stunning spaces. WhyCLE? is hosting a CIM@Severance giveaway. Enter to win two tickets to their concert on February 12.

Stay up-to-speed on the next Ohio Blogging meetup at

New Year’s Eve in Downtown CLE: 3 Parties to Check Out


It’s time to bust out the noisemakers and confetti. 2013 is days away from taking its final bow. How are you planning on celebrating New Year’s Eve?

If you don’t have plans yet, try one of these three parties in downtown Cleveland:

Society Lounge’s New Year’s Eve

Scott and I recently made our first trip to Society Lounge on E4th, and as we learned at their Repeal Day party, they know how to throw one classy celebration. Fine cocktails, music, a beautifully nostalgic setting. If you want to reminisce about the past while celebrating the future, join them on December 31. Lounge singer Phil Turk will be performing from 10:30pm to 1:30am, accompanied by a champagne toast at midnight. General tickets are no longer available; however, you can pick up $75 VIP tickets which include your own private table and a bottle of champagne for every two tickets purchased. See the flyer below for more information and call 216-781-9050 for tickets.

Society Lounge

New Year’s Eve at Pura Vida

Dinner reservations are available at Public Square’s Pura Vida from 4 til 10pm. After 10, a house party takes over. Party with Pura Vida and enjoy appetizers, an open bar, a DJ, champagne toast at midnight and breakfast buffet at 1am. Tickets are $100 if you have a dinner reservation earlier in the evening ($125 if you aren’t dining before the party). VIP lounges with bottle service and a personal host are also available. Reservations are required; email and see their flyer below for more information.


Cleveland Rocks New Year’s Eve on Public Square

Of course, the biggest party in downtown Cleveland will be Cleveland Rocks New Year’s Eve on Public Square. With special guest Drew Carey, Ohio Homecoming will bring more than 15 food trucks, local DJs, and electronic dance music group Krewella to Public Square for this outdoor NYE festival. The event will also feature live ice sculpting, a beer garden, fireworks and a countdown at midnight. This free celebration starts at 6 p.m. on December 31 and leads up to midnight. A portion of the evening’s proceeds will go to Ohio Homecoming’s Village Project. Learn more at (click on ‘Events’).

If you can’t make it downtown for NYE, there are parties going on throughout the Cleveland area. Check out WhyCLE and Anchored in CLE for more New Year’s Eve ideas.

Disclosure: Ohio Homecoming emailed me about blogging about Cleveland Rocks New Year’s Eve after I had already decided to write this post. The choice to blog about these three events is 100% my own.

Toasting Repeal Day at Cleveland’s Society Lounge

Society Lounge was hopping with people dressed to the nines in honor of Repeal Day in Cleveland

Society Lounge was hopping with people dressed to the nines in honor of Repeal Day

When Society Lounge opened a short walk from my office, I badly wanted to go. However, with most of our post-work meetings happening on the other side of downtown and the now-6 degree weather keeping me from wanting to walk anywhere, I hadn’t had a chance to get there yet.

Well, I can’t think of any better reason to go than to celebrate Repeal Day.

When I opened my mailbox last month to find a glittery art-deco-inspired invitation to their Repeal Day party, Scott and I dug out our “finest” pearls and top hat to raise a glass in honor of the 80th anniversary of Prohibition’s end.  Make that four glasses because the cocktails were that good.

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The Katz Club Diner – A Taste of Home, But Better

Grab a seat at the Katz Club Diner's counter for a better diner experience

Grab a seat at the Katz Club counter for a better diner experience

Growing up in South Jersey, the classic diner was a way of life for Scott, and while attending college in Philly, they quickly became my primary source of food throughout the week.

Pulling up a stool at the counter for some quick breakfast or grabbing a corner table for midnight dinner with friends — there are few restaurant experiences that instill comfort in me the way a diner does.

Since moving to Cleveland, I’ve missed the Llanerch, Melrose and Harvest diners of the old days. Fortunately, the Katz Club Diner in Cleveland Heights has come to my rescue.

Located in the old Dottie’s space, Katz Club Diner embraces the roots of the two classic Pullman diner cars it calls home. The cars, which originally came here from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, house a 48-seat diner, a quick service carry-out coffee and bake shop, and a late-night bar car offering craft cocktails, beer, wine, spirits, and appetizers.

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Guest Post: A Dog Day in the CLE

One reason I love having local guest bloggers stop by is that I get a lot of great ideas on how to spend a day in Cleveland. Today’s post by Ann McDonald from Dogs in the CLE makes me wish my cat Chloe wasn’t such a homebody.

Guest blogger:

Guest blogger:

First of all, I want to thank Amanda for letting me guest post on her blog. As a blogging newbie I am excited to be featured on her blog – one of my favorites to read to find out what’s going on the CLE.

One of the reasons I started blogging about dog-friendly places in Cleveland was to find more places I could take my dog. Before I got a dog I had no idea the guilt that I would feel leaving him for long periods of time. Lucky for me I have discovered there’s enough dog-friendly places in Cleveland that it’s possible to spend your day with your dog and still get out and enjoy the city.

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Giveaway: Greenhouse Tavern’s Prophets of Smoked Meat

I usually don’t run 2 giveaways at the same time. However, when you read about the Greenhouse Tavern Prophets of Smoked Meat giveaway, you’ll understand why I couldn’t pass it up.

Because this week’s a little crazy, Scott stepped in to blog about it. With his love of meat, I think it was the perfect match! Remember to also enter my Dishcrawl’s Neighborfood giveaway.

Greenhouse Tavern pig roast

Scott at a Greenhouse Tavern patio party and pig roast

Oh, Cleveland, how much do I love meat?  That’s not a rhetorical question, start guessing!

See, I’ve always been a fan of meat. But if you’ve ever had the “privilege” of dining with me (quotation marks added by Amanda for sake of accuracy), you’ll know my past preference for carnivorous cuts was far from adventurous.

My orders of steaks, burgers, ribs, fillets, and others were always safe, straightforward, and plain.

Cleveland, you’ve shown me the better path.

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11 days, 900 miles: Our (Road)Trip Down Memory Lane

"Virginia is for Bowlers" and other lessons learned on our Eastcoast roadtrip

“Virginia is for Bowlers” and other lessons learned on our Eastcoast roadtrip

11 days, 900 miles, and too many guest beds/couches/air mattresses to count.

To celebrate the start of summer and a few family milestones, Scott and I packed up the car last week and began the Great DiGiandomenico-Hicken Roadtrip of 2013.

As much as I love the home we’ve built in Cleveland, it had been a while since we reconnected with family, friends, and the places we came from.

With Scott’s parents celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary and my sister celebrating her birthday last week, we figured the timing was perfect for this kind of trip.

So off we went to our first stop – Culpeper, Virginia, where my sister lives.

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