Sunday, December 30, 2018

This Week's Counter: Doug's Dinner Bucket

Having driven past Doug's a number of times when out in the area of Blossom and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, we always joked about the name.  Recently we figured out it has a counter, so we finally got around to giving it a try.

Located sort of in the middle of nowhere on old Rt 8 near 303, between Hudson and Peninsula, this little square building doesn't look like much. And it's really not -- a few tables, a small counter with 3 seats, and not much more.  There was only 1 guy in the place when we stopped in. It might have been Doug himself, since he looked like one of the drawings on the wall and the woman serving seemed to know him well.

Service was super friendly -- like having a meal at your grandmother's. The menu was also pretty good -- lots of choices from eggs/omelettes to pancakes to sandwiches and more.  Unfortunately that's about all the positives. Cam ordered the grilled cheese with egg and bacon plus home fries, and Ted chose a cheese omelette with home fries, toast and coffee.  Doug's seems to be on a tight budget as everything was served on plastic -- plates, forks and knives, and cups.  The food was just OK at best -- the grilled cheese and omelette were fine, but the potatoes, toast and coffee were pretty weak.  Sort of soggy and greasy.

Good to finally cross this one off our list, but it was far from a favorite and tough to recommend in any way. But kind of fun to say you ate at "Doug's Dinner Bucket"!

Cam says: "Comfortable seating and a barely decent meal (served on a paper plate with plastic utensils), but that's about it. I'll give it 3 frying pans."

Ted says: "Had to give it a try, but what the name implies is what you get -- a low-end, average quality breakfast. Friendly service compensates, but still. 2 pans."


Tuesday, December 25, 2018

This Week's Counter: Big Al's Diner

We've known about Big Al's forever, but only figured out recently it had a counter.  Located on Larchmere near Shaker Square, this place has been around a long time and has a loyal following.  After visiting on a Saturday morning, we can see why.

Big Al's is fairly old and pretty small - maybe a dozen tables and a small counter with only 4 seats.  It was about 3/4 full when we got there and fortunately there were 2 counter seats open. After we sat down, the remaining tables steadily filled up.

One of the standout features is a great breakfast menu -- very extensive with many different types and combinations of egg dishes, pancakes and waffles, omelettes, breakfast meats, etc. Cam chose a bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich on a bagel and home fries, while Ted picked eggs, bacon, home fries and coffee.  All the food was excellent -- hot and tasty.  Coffee was also great, served in a heavy ceramic mug.

All around, this was a great counter -- maybe not the biggest and most comfortable, but the combo of the great menu, good food, friendly service and perfect diner atmosphere made this one of our favorites.  Highly recommend!

Cam says: "Average service with a not so comfortable counter. However, food quality and temperature were on point. I'll give it 8 frying pans."

Ted says: "Excellent in almost all ways -- food, service and atmosphere. Definitely a winner. 8 pans."



Wednesday, October 17, 2018

This Week's Counter: The FortyNiner

One of a set of new counters we've identified, the FortyNiner is located in the North Broadway / Slavic Village neighborhood at Broadway and Pershing.  We stopped in on a late Saturday morning while on the way, with Bradley joining us, to do some Jeep-related shopping over on Brookpark Rd. 
Both the neighborhood and this place specifically look somewhat run down -- the FortyNiner currently has some boarded up windows and missing glass in the outside front door; we weren't sure if it was vandalized or if they are in the process of renovating.  Inside is like a trip back to 40+ years ago -- a very small place with maybe 10 tables and a large counter. The counter has several of those old jukeboxes mounted along it.  Everything (walls, seats, counter, kitchen) also looks 40 years old -- pretty beaten up, cracked and broken.  This place doesn't see a lot of maintenance investment.
It was pretty quiet when we got there, and we had our choice of seats at the counter. Servers were friendly enough, although not overly attentive. We quickly had drinks and looked over the menu.  The FortyNiner does breakfast and lunch -- open until 2PM each day. We all had breakfast -- Eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast for Cam, same for Ted (plus coffee) and Bradley had biscuits and sausage gravy. 
While the place probably isn't the most organized and clean we've seen, the food arrived fairly fast and was impressively hot and fresh.  No surprise, the potatoes could have been more crisp, but everything was pretty tasty.  Coffee, however, was a significant weak spot, "weak" being the key word.  For what we got (and it was only $22 total), it was decent value.
While the food was solid, the condition of the place is somewhat of a turnoff. But, if you are looking to go very low-end and experience a somewhat lost part of Cleveland, this could be the place for you!


Cam says: "Way below average appearance (and presumably, sanitation). Average service to come along with it. Slightly above average food. I'll give it 4 frying pans."

Ted says: "Really happy with the quality of the food, but unfortunately poor coffee and rundown interior are detractors. 5 pans."




Monday, September 3, 2018

This Week's Counter: Hot Grillz Diner

We spent some time researching additional counter locations, both on the East side and elsewhere around town. Surprisingly, we came up with a list of about 15 new ones, so we have plenty more to hit now.

First up on the list, mostly because it was closest, was a new place called Hot Grillz Diner in Walton Hills.  We drove Cameron's new (old) Miata over there shortly after they opened on a weekday morning.  It's on a busy industrial section of Northfield Rd, and appears to be in a remodeled building that might have been a used car dealer or mechanic in the past. That's fitting because the interior is complete car-themed -- from muscle car art on the walls to the names of menu items, everything seems to relate to cars.

The place was totally empty when we arrived, so we had our pick of seats at the shiny chrome counter and had complete attention of the (small) staff.  Our server said the place had been open just 5 or 6 weeks, and they were still trying to build awareness.  It's definitely a work in progress, although by 8:30 there might have been 3 or 4 tables of people.

We got drinks and ordered pretty quickly, and with it being so quiet the food come out fast as well.  Cam had a breakfast sandwich on a bagel -- eggs, bacon and cheese -- and home fries.  Ted had eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast.  The coffee was good, served in a sturdy mug. The food was good and portions were big, good value for the money.

Overall, a friendly place in a somewhat unusual area that you normally wouldn't go unless you happened to work over that way.  But we enjoyed the breakfast and hope they do well and continue build a following.

Cam says: "Decent food quality and generous portions. Service was OK but slightly lacking.  Even with theme of the restaurant, still lacked atmosphere.  I give it 6 frying pans."

Ted says: "Too new and modern, so not my kind of place atmosphere-wise  But the food and service were good and it was filling. I think it deserves 6 pans."