East 185th Street, which also happens to be the border between Cleveland and Euclid, recently snagged a couple new quick-serve food options that will help to keep diners in and around the North Collinwood community happy and well fed. From a modern-day Jamaican cafe to a hand-crafted sandwich emporium, there are now two tasty new reasons to hit that strip.
When Omar McKay was preparing to make the move from the food court at Richmond Town Square (formerly Richmond Mall), where for two years he operated the Jamaican spot Irie Patties, to a brick-and-mortar shop on East 185th Street, he said that he planned to do things a little differently. That's precisely what he's doing over at the brand-new Irie Jamaican Kitchen (621 East 185th St., 216-350-6112).
Fans of the genre have come to expect a playbook written in stone when it comes to local Jamaican eateries. Everything from the menu and recipes to the service and atmosphere (more specifically, the lack thereof) is nearly identical from joint to joint. That's not the case at Irie, a sun-soaked corner space that greets guests with a colorful interior, groovy reggae music, and a menu that takes cues from some of today's most popular dining trends.
Sure, traditionalists can still order a heaping plate of McKay's fiery jerk chicken, supple braised oxtails and sweet shrimp curry alongside the customary warm cabbage slaw, rice and beans. But guests who want to liven things up a bit can go "Jahpotle" style by getting those stews dished up in the now-ubiquitous bowl or wrap form.
"Some people might be uncomfortable trying Jamaican food for the first time, but if you put it in a wrap or bowl, everybody gets it," McKay says.
Bowls ($6.99 to $9.99) are built atop a base of rice and beans or shredded lettuce and are topped with a choice of stews like chicken curry, jerk shrimp and braised oxtails. Diners then customize the bowls with fresh ingredients like cucumber salad, ripe mango salsa and lively homemade hot sauce. The atypical additions add some welcome crunch and vitality to the comforting, savory, but at times one-dimensional stews.
Wraps ($6.99) work the same way, but with a twist. Items such as bone-in jerk chicken, bone-in oxtails, and tail-on shrimp curry don't belong in a wrap for obvious reasons. Instead you can choose from boneless jerk, curry or stewed chicken. Large flour tortillas are packed with stew, sweet plantains, warm cabbage and the fresh toppings of your choosing before getting twisted up into a thick fatty.
Things are going so well for McKay that he's already got his sights set on a second location. Look for Irie Jamaican Kitchen to open a new outpost near the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo before the end of the year.
Just down the block, Randy Carter, the chef-owner behind Jack Flaps in Ohio City and Jack Flaps Luncheonette in the 5th Street Arcades, is running the kind of sandwich shop that most neighborhoods would kill to have: Sammich (651 East 185th St., 216-350-6888, sammich.co). In the back of the 7,000-square-foot building, formerly occupied by Old World Meats, meats are roasted, braised, cured and/or smoked in house. In front, those meats are sliced and paired with veggies, cheeses, sauces and condiments to create boldly flavored hoagies that pack a punch.
The shop has adopted a pugilistic theme, with sandwiches all taking the names of notable boxers. The Marciano ($9) is a two-fisted Italian sub loaded with capicola, salami, provolone, spicy pickled peppers, shredded lettuce, red onion and vinaigrette. Like its namesake, the Cung Le ($8) is a sandwich with Vietnamese roots. Thick-cut roasted pork loin and rustic Vietnamese sausage are paired with tart, crunchy kimchi, jalapeno wheels and cilantro. While flavorful and substantial, the sandwich would have benefited from some shredded veggies and a lubricant of some kind, be it mayo, the traditional banh mi accompaniment, or otherwise.
Other sammiches star main ingredients like horseradish-cured roast beef, Cajun turkey breast, cilantro chicken salad, and fresh Italian sausage. There are 10 sandwiches in all, only a couple of which are served hot, but customers are welcome to design their own creations. Because all sandwiches are made to order, it's not a bad idea to phone ahead if you have large orders or are crunched for time. There are a handful of seats for dining in.
Round out your meal with one or more cold sides ($2.80) like creamy macaroni salad, potato salad, coleslaw, and crunchy sliced cucumber and onion salad. There also are bagged chips and cold soft drinks at the ready.
Sammich also sells sliced meats and cheeses by the pound and has begun stocking a small selection of fresh produce like tomatoes, onions and potatoes, as well as jarred items such as olives. Keep it in mind for those last-minute get-togethers.