Here’s to new food options in Avon Lake!

Avon Lake is a great place to call home. I am happy it is mine. If it has one shortcoming though, a lack of quality food options might be it. I find the restaurant options to be somewhat limited and lacking and, frankly, I think I’m being kind by putting it this way. There’s pizza, pizza and more pizza, a couple of Asian choices and then a smattering of other spots that I don’t hate but don’t love. A few spots easily qualify for an episode Gordon Ramsay’s  Kitchen Nightmares. The town has seen many cafes and restaurants come and go: Bar Symon, Atlanta Bread Company, Arabica and the list goes on. Not sure of the specifics around each closing but I assume it is the standard reason – patronage volumes that are lower than required to sustain the business.

Perhaps I’m a harsher critic as I have a handful of particulars to consider when selecting a restaurant: I’m vegetarian, my husband is a carnivore and we have a child under 2. I also want to mention that I’m a bit of a foodie who is also into natural and organic foods. Add to this that I’m also a big proponent of supporting local, independent resturants. Surely you can see that my finding qualified food options  falls just shy of a mini miracle.

The good news is that several new spots just opened or will be shortly within Avon Lake so I’ll have some new options and so will you!

Jenni Juggs (Now Open!)

Photo credit: Lori E. Switaj

The name is interesting and certainly memorable. One might interpret it for a different type of establishment (or at least this is the reaction I’ve received from most people when I share the name) but the truth is that it is billed as a quaint spot offering finger-lickin’ good Southern Comfort Food. This is certainly a new category to be represented in the far west side of Cleveland. The menu features the expected southern classics: chicken and waffles, cornmeal-crusted catfish, hush puppies, cole slaw and sweet tea. The “sides” menu is tempting enough for me to order just from it. Recent reviews that I’ve read report a cute and pleasant atmosphere, tasty mac ‘n’ cheese and cornbread and promises of return visits.

The location is on the eastern end of Avon Lake in the northern end of the Learwood Plaza (the Giant Eagle plaza, as locals refer to it) and is the fully renovated former home of an Italian restaurant (another example of an Avon Lake restaurant gone bye-bye). I’m tickled as this location is a five-minute bike ride from my house making it a great choice for a weekday dinner or a weekend brunch spot. With the addition of Jenni Juggs, the Learwood Plaza has become an even more enjoyable, diverse destination. You can get a pedicure at Luxury Nails, enjoy an order of fried green tomatoes at Jenni Juggs, browse a newly opened Goodwill location, stop by the Ron Zehel Guitar Center for a new set of strings, and finally grab a few groceries at Giant Eagle.

Hours: Tuesday- Thursday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., Friday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Sunday brunch, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and regular service 2 p.m .- 9 p.m. Takeout is also available. 440-653-5255

Cafe Melissa (Coming November 2012!)

I recently enjoyed a veggie burger from Sweet Melissa at the 2012 Avon Lake Summer Market. I’ve also enjoyed their food at their Rocky River location over the last several years. While ordering my burger at the Summer Market, I overheard talk that they would be opening a location in Avon Lake come this November. I was thrilled at the news! (I was also thrilled when they gave me a Free Appetizer gift card for the new location.)

The Sweet Melissa location in Avon Lake will be called Cafe Melissa and will be open for breakfast every day starting at 9 a.m. The menu is to be announced although I’m hoping that at least most of my favorites from the Rocky River location will carry over. The Cafe Melissa location will be in the former Donatos building on Walker Road just West of Route 83/Avon Belden Road.

Hours: Monday – Sunday, 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.

A Mediterranean Restaurant (Coming soon!)

So, I have to say that I don’t have any confirmed info on this new food offering other than what I have heard through the grapevine around town but I want to believe it so I’m sharing! The story is that a new Mediterranean restaurant is opening in the former Tucky’s location (ah, yet another former Avon Lake restaurant and, wow, this one really didn’t last long). There are signs of work being started at the former Tucky’s location so there could be some validity to the rumors. Let’s hope so. Location-wise, it is literally a stone’s throw from the new Jenni Juggs. Hopefully, with two very different cuisines, the restaurants will complement versus threaten each other. I’ll be sure to share more on this one as news develop!

Let’s eat!

So for now, give Jenni Juggs a try and let me know what you think! I will be checking it out soon myself and using the $10 gift card that they gave to the Luxury Nails salon to distribute to its customers. (Kudos to both Jenni Juggs and Cafe Melissa for including an enticement in their grand opening promotional efforts. It works!)


Great Food in a Strip Mall.

You don’t expect to find a restaurant serving delicious, natural food in a strip mall set back from Bagley Road in Berea, Ohio. I drove past it the first time I was visitng. The strip mall features two businesses: a gym and Tree Hugger’s Cafe. The cafe which serves meat and meat-free (including vegan) food is tucked away and frankly I’m shocked it stays open with such an out-of-the-way location. (I’m a foodie and a long-time vegetarian and I had never heard of the place.) But nevertheless, I am happy it is there and to have found it.

I have to do a little sidebar here on the name of the cafe because it gets under my skin a bit. I take issue with anything that is healthy or natural needing to go to the hippie side of things. Why does a love for animals and planet need to go hand in hand with tie-dye? I don’t wear Birkenstocks. I don’t even like patchouli. I do enjoy amazing food that is also natural, locally produced and nutritious. And Tree Hugger’s uses almost 100% organic ingredients and buys its produce when in season from local farmers. They also purchase their bread, coffee and other items from local independent businesses.

But the good news is that…

…the delicious food options more than make up for the cafe’s name. My current addiction: the black cactus black bean patty burger. With the perfect touch of spicy flavor, the generous patty is piled high with lettuce, tomato, Swiss cheese, mango salsa and fresh avocado slices. And the bun it is all nested on doesn’t disappoint either. With the burger comes your choice of side. I always go for the dill coleslaw (vegan). I’ve never had a dill-flavored cole slaw but it is all I want from this point forward. It is a crunchy dish probably due to a lack of mayo that is not missed in the least. This is a large meal and I usually end up taking half of the sandwich home.

Another favorite is the hummus which comes with veggies and warm pita for dipping. I’m pretty picky about my hummus and this one is herby, creamy and scores major points. I would order it as my meal. And don’t miss out on the hand-cut fries. They are fresh-tasting and cooked to perfection.

Tree Hugger’s scores extra points with me for also offering the following:
– Kombucha: pretty tough to find in the Cleveland area. (The only two places I have been able to buy it so far are Nature’s Bin and Good ‘n’ Raw–both in Lakewood.)

– Chocolate Chip Cookies: as big as your head (Plus an array of other delicious desserts.)

– Drive thru window: perfect for calling ahead and picking up your order at lunch time

So get check out this hidden spot. You’ll enjoy some great food and leave feeling like you also did your body good.

Quick Links:
Map: 1330 Bagley Road, Berea OH 44017

Happy New Year. Happy New Baby.

2011 really will be a year full of HAPPY and NEW for me. Any day now, I will meet my little person who has been growing inside me (and kicking me with what feels like stilettos) for the past 8.5 months. Pregnancy is a wild, fascinating ride but it is these last few weeks that are the most intense both physically and emotionally. I am literally sitting around waiting to go through labor and delivery (not the easiest thing I hear) and to have my life change forever when I see my baby for the first time. It is…indescribable.

Every so often, my husband or I will abruptly announce to the other–“We’re going to have a baby”–as if it is new news. I just think that the human brain can’t grasp such a large concept. And yet I realize that people have babies every day.

So here is to a HAPPY first year for me, my husband and our little one, and our family and friends. May it be filled with sweet little grins and giggles.

An old rocking chair fixed up with cotton candy pink spray paint and Amy Butler fabric purchased at Stitch Cleveland

mindful eating.

mindful is probably a word we need to remember to put in front of most verbs these days. good examples would be mindful driving or mindful listening. but awareness is also a good thing when we’re talking about what you decide to put in your body.

this morning, i ran across a fun-to-read article on this topic that even includes some pretty simple recipes at the end and wanted to share: HOMEMADE CONDIMENTS: JUST LIKE GRANDMA MADE. i’m excited to try the homemade hummus recipe. i think i’ve finally hit a  point where i need to move on from trader joe’s hummus or at least take a break.

the article is on a new magazine’s site called shoestring: good for the wallet, good for the planet. it’s a cute, easy-to-navigate site with all kinds of thrifty and eco ideas. so check out the article. i’m off to explore the site some more!

i can’t believe i’m blogging about deodorant.

but i am. and here’s why.

i love sharing news of a great product with other people. and deodorant is no exception.

i’ve been on a quest for a deodorant that wasn’t full of aluminum or other harsh chemicals. but i also wanted something that worked. that combination was not easy to find. i tried all kinds of natural deodorants including crystal stones, lavender roll-ons, unscented bars. each ended up creating a new strange and not so pleasant scent by mid-day or just did nothing at all leaving me…unprotected. (“unprotected” sounds like something from a cheesy deodorant commercial so i had to say it.)

i had almost given up and resorted back to my secret solid–chemicals and all. and then i decided to give natural deodorant one more shot–earth science liken plant herbal scent natural deodorant. (and it was on sale at heinen’s.)

and the verdict–it works! and the scent is a pleasing light citrus. plus it’s paraben-free and not tested on animals.

so go for it. it’s all of these little things we do for better health that really do add up.

four ingredients.

roasted brussel sprouts and shallots (ina garten’s recipe)

what you need:

brussel sprouts


olive oil

course salt

figure out the ratios of the above to your liking. then chop off the ends of the sprouts and discard the outer leaves. then half or quarter them depending on size. chop up your shallots into small strips. spread the brussel sprouts and shallots on a cookie sheet. (one with sides is best.) drizzle with olive oil and add your salt. toss. throw it in the oven at 400 degrees and roast for 25-35 minutes. pull the pan out once during that time and shake the ingredients around so they evenly cook.

and then enjoy. so yummy and so easy! not to mention, it’s a full serving of veggies, my friends!

inspiration. (and cute clothes.)

i spotted a cute new “hard tail forever” outfit for sale at inner bliss yoga studio. i decided to check it out online at the hard tail site. that’s when i stumbled upon the photo album showing the images that hard tail uses in their current ad campaigns. (there are five pages of images, so be sure to click on them all.)

uh, here’s a new year’s resolution if you’re looking for one: health, fitness, strength, flexibility. and some cute new workout duds. sign me up!

weekend (non-)plans.

west side marketi refuse to say T.G.I.F. but thank goodness the weekend is here! it has been quite the week!

and to remedy it, i will sleep in on saturday and then lay around in my p.j.’s and watch a few of my guilty pleasure tv shows. i would say “tori & dean: home sweet hollywood” but i don’t feel guilty at all about loving that show.

i may browse the stands at the west side market this weekend. pick up a loaf of fresh bread and maybe some fresh ohio city pasta.

i will take every opportunity to stop and smell the flowers, to smile at a stranger.

i will stroll with my husband and sip my favorite coffee, slowly.

here’s to the weekend. i hope yours is a good one.

my four-year-old friend.

IMG_6186i have a four-year old friend. she’s the daughter of a neighbor couple that my husband and i have gotten to know over the last six months or so. last night, i volunteered to take her to the neighborhood park just a stone’s throw away.

at the park, i did a lot of pushing her on the swing. (it was sad that my arms started to hurt at some point. note to self: need to work out more.) my little friend held onto her stuffed animal, catty, and talked about how she was as high as the birds and commented on how much both she and catty loved to swing very high.

we also climbed around on the jungle gym playground equipment at the park. i was the student as she taught me how to navigate the different obstacles and then we took turns on the slide. occasionally, we had to take a break so we could refresh ourselves at the drinking fountain, catty included.

during my time at the park with my little friend, all my thoughts about laundry and “to do” lists and monday coming soon quickly faded away. i started to see the world from her perspective–a big, amazing place full of opportunities for fun and laughter. it was a great reminder to stop thinking ahead quite so much and sink into the moment so you don’t miss the  ladybug next to you on the park bench.

photo: chalk art on my patio by my little friend

child’s pose.

urlso we are all told in our yoga classes that it is okay to return to child’s pose at any point if that’s where we need to be. we don’t have to force ourselves into a 20-breath downward dog. we can push back and stretch our arms forward in a relaxing balasana pose.

and even though in a yoga studio–an environment where we’re told that we must respect our bodies and do what our bodies tell us is best–we sometimes don’t listen and push ourselves too hard. the next day, we wake with a sore shoulder or tender knee or even worse.

i guess this need to push or prove ourselves goes beyond the yoga mat and out with us into our lives off the mat. we have something to prove to ourselves and to prove to those around us. we can’t give our bodies or ourselves what we know we really need because we must go further, reach new heights or goals. we have to prove to those around us that we are strong and successful. we refuse to be vulnerable. and if we can’t be vulnerable on a yoga mat–a place where that is encouraged–then where can we?

this is something that i plan to think on. what things do i do because i need to prove myself even when i know it’s not the best thing for me? those are the moments when i need to move out of my unhealthy pose and into one that feels right and is better for me.