Sal's Menu Restaurant
Where did we go wrong? When were we brainwashed into forgetting about the venerable Cleveland diner? Are the prices really that much better at McMuffinland? In a word, no. A full meal at most diners is still cheaper than your average fast food chain. Nor are diners giving away anything in quality. For proof, check out Sal's Menu Restaurant, located just a stone's throw away from Metro Hospital. This family owned business has been slinging homemade delights since 1983. Sal Mansour, who emigrated over 42 years ago from Lebanon, is not only the owner, but the sole cook, working the grill from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. The volume of food that he produ-
ces on a three-foot griddle is amazing, and the quality, temperature, and preparation time is off the charts. Big chain restaurants with 10 cooks in their kitchens could learn a lot from Sal.
My usual seat is at the counter, which is equipped with a vintage countertop mini-jukebox. The menu is nostalgic greasy- spoon, offering everything from breakfast specials to sandwiches to entrees. My favorite item is Sal's famous Gyro Omelet. What makes this omelet famous is his trademark cooking technique. The traditional way to make an omelet is by placing the ingredients on top of the griddle before the omelet is folded and served. Instead, Sal mixes the gyro meat right into the scrambled egg before it is poured onto the hot griddle. Another feature of Sam's omelets is that they are served "open-faced," and not folded. The American cheese is melted and fired off the griddle directly onto my plate. The hash browns accompanying the omelet are cut in-house, and grilled to a crispy exterior. If that isn't enough, raisin toast provides a happy addition to the plate. Most of Sal's breakfast specials are around $3. Think about that the next time you're tempted to pull into the Golden Arches.
3850 Pearl Rd., Cleveland, 216-398-1446
Muldoon's Saloon and Eatery
Everyone driving east or westbound on I-90 in the vicinity of Euclid has seen Muldoon's Saloon and Eatery from the highway. The building is not only a visual landmark, but has been a beacon for tasty goodness in these parts for 32 years. Owner Billy Dagg, a retired Cleveland firefighter, makes no bones about the success of his restaurant resting on the hard work of his loyal staff, some of whom have worked there for a quarter of a century. Even the "newest" servers have been there an average of 21 years!
Dagg's vision for Muldoon's was simple: a comfortable pub that would be a neighborhood gathering place. This translated into rich woods and rustic furniture. Beyond the design and the family atmosphere, the menu has been an important part of his success. "We are a restaurant that has a bar, not a bar that serves food," Dagg explains. It doesn't hurt that the kitchen manager, Marty Gerhardt, has been at Muldoon's for a whopping 28 years. With that type of commitment comes perfection. For starters, try an order of the Irish egg rolls, shaved corned beef sauerkraut with Swiss cheese rolled in a won ton skin and lightly fried. The chicken wings are extremely popular. The eight different sauces are all robust, but if you're feeling tough, try the five-alarm fire sauce. If you make it through that, I recommend the huge corned beef sandwich or the panko-breaded Florida grouper. If you ask Dagg, he will tell you to try his signature slow-roasted St. Louis-style ribs. Another favorite of his is the prime rib dinner, which is served only on Saturday nights and usually sells out. The drinks aren't too shabby, either. One of only a handful of establishments on the east side of Cleveland to pour a perfect pint, this is a great place to order a Guinness or a Black and Tan. Any place that has been in business for so long with practically the same staff and this kind of food and drink qualifies as a classic vintage eatery.
1020 East 185th St., Cleveland, 216-531-3130, muldoonscleveland.com